Monday, November 09, 2015

MMGM- Max and Norse Mythology

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday.

The Winner of the Voyagers Gift Pack is Jaina ofRead Till Dawn! You'll be getting an e mail from the publicist with all the details!

25817647Boaz Yakin, Sheldon, Lettich. Max: Best Friend, Hero, Marine
June 9th 2015 by HarperCollins
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Justin is a bit of a slacker and also very angry at his older brother, Kyle, for going off to fight in Afghanistan. When Kyle is killed, the entire family is inconsolable. Kyle's military dog, Max, is brought to the funeral and seems to understand that his handler is gone, and the family is moved enough to take Max in, even though he has seemed rather wild in some settings. Justin is annoyed at first, mainly because Justin is annoyed at everything, but grows attached to Max. When Tyler, a friend of his brother and a soldier who has come home injured, gets a job with Justin's father, he indicates that Max might have been the cause of Kyle's death. There's more to it than that, though: Tyler isn't completely truthful about anything having to do with his military time, and is up to no good. Justin might have been selling bootleg copies of video games, but Tyler is involved in dangerous and illegal activities.

This had a lot to recommend it to reluctant readers who are interested in the military. There are enough details about Kyle and Tyler's experiences, as well as the father's, to keep those readers interested, but there is also a lot about the military dogs. Justin isn't the most likable character at first, mainly because he is so angry at so many people, but this, too, will speak to some readers. The ending, with its action and adventure, keeps this from getting bogged down in sentimentality.

A good companion to C. Alex London's Dog Tags series, this is a good fiction book to combine with informational texts about service dogs, such as Dorothy Hinshaw Patent's Dogs on Duty: Soldier's Best Friends on the Battle and Beyond.

That said, this was overly melodramatic, and very clearly a novelization of a somewhat cheesy movie. The depiction of parental grief-- sigh. Kyle was in the military. They shouldn't have been so surprised. I think most depictions of grief in literature are inaccurate and very overblown.

24345966Napoli, Donna Jo. Treasury of Norse Mythology
Balit, Christina, illustrator
September 22nd 2015 by National Geographic Children's Books
Copy provided by Media Masters Publicity

This large format, well-illustrated collection of Norse myths covers 18 major tales, and has brief description of the major characters as well. There is a helpful map, timeline, and bibliography as well. There are sidebars with most of the stories that include pictures of artifacts or nature, and discuss topics, such as transport or Norse diet, that readers might not understand from just the narrative. The pages are nicely formatted, with enough white space to appeal even to picky middle grade readers. The illustrations are colorful, and the two page spreads at the beginnings of chapters are explained by notes on the following age. 

I don't know enough about Norse iconography to be able to judge if the illustrations pay tribute to it; there are some page decorations that echo some of the decorative scrollwork of extant jewelry, but it would have been nice to feel that the faces and backgrounds were inspired by art original to the time of the myths. The tone is also odd at some points, which surprised me. Napoli has retold a number of folk tales from various cultures in eloquent, intriguing and riveting ways, but there were times when I felt the tone in these retellings was too flippant. Perhaps I am too used to the reverential tone of Edith Hamilton and the D'Aulaires, and this lighter approach is meant to appeal to today's young readers. 

With the recent publication of Riordan's The Sword of Summer, all thing Norse will be in high demand, so this is definitely a book to think about purchasing, since most libraries will need more than one book about Norse Myths. Napoli cites Kevin Crossley-Holland's 1980 The Norse Myths as a particularly good source, and I'm investigating buying that as well. D'Aulaire's Book of Norse Myths (1967) is a must have.


  1. Hi Ms Yingling - I own a copy of the D'aulaires Norse Myths and Greek Myths - and I agree that they are truly incomparable. Will still try to find this one by Donna Jo Napoli.

  2. I did enjoy the movie last summer, but I like a little cheese once in a while. The question is what came first the book or movie? This sounds like a rewrite of the movie's screenplay. Anyway, a good choice for kids looking for a different kind of book.

  3. Anonymous12:35 PM EST

    Yeah, we've had a sudden surge of interest with Norse mythology at our store.

  4. I'm adding Napoli's book of norse mythology to my list. I can see that it will be popular with those who read Riordan's newest. You can see what I read here. Happy reading!

  5. The D'aulaire books are great, agreed. Nice to see a new approach too. The other book sounds like it should be written, but perhaps better?

  6. We love Donna Jo Napoli's work and are excited to read the collection of Norse Mythology.

  7. I'm definitely getting this book on Norse Mythology. I'm not a Riordan fan, but I am a fan of Norse Mythology. My interest was peaked ages ago when I read Libba Bray's Going Bovine.

  8. You're right, Norse mythology is about to become huge with Riordan's new series, so thank you for sharing this.
    Happy reading this week! :)