Friday, July 11, 2008

Mythological Creatures Week

I have been on vacation and I decided to take some youth fiction with me as fun and easy reads.

The Tail of Emily Windsnap by Liz Kessler is the first in a series of books for ages 8-12. Middle-schooler Emily starts a new school and has no real friends. She begs her mom for swim lessons, but once in the water, her legs start to feel funny. She is saved from the water by her swim coach and tries to get out of swim class for the next several sessions. She becomes curious about what happened with her legs and decides to take a midnight swim in the ocean where she discovers she is a mermaid! While swimming at night, she runs into another young mermaid and befriends her. The rest of the story involves Emily finding her roots in the mer-world and finding out the truth about who she is and where she comes from. This delightful little book was a fun read. I liked Emily and I felt that Kessler grasped the angst of the preteen world well. It was fun to read about the mer-world and to see how Kessler played with common sayings, changing them into fishy or ocean-related expressions. I also found the information about mermaids in general interesting. I believe there are 2 or 3 more books in the series so far. I will probably check at least the next one, if not more, to see how Emily's journey continues.

I also read The Beasts of Clawstone by Eva Ibbotson. Allison reviewed this book here earlier this year. Allison gave a nice synopsis of the book, I'll just reiterate a little. A brother and sister go to visit their great aunt and uncle for the summer in an ancient castle. While not excited to be visiting at first, the children soon become involved in the day-to-day running of the castle. As they help out their aunt and uncle they begin a journey to save the special cows that belong to the castle and meet some friendly ghosts along the way. I don't want to give too much away because it is fun to see how the story unfolds, but I do want to mention that some mythological animals are discussed toward the end of the book.

I mention the mythlogical creatures reference because, ironically, I visited the Field Museum this week while vacationing in Chicago. And one of their special exhibits happens to be: Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns & Mermaids. The exhibit actually encompassed more than just those three creatures. Attending this exhibit seemed very fitting for this particular vacation since I was reading one book about mermaids, and the idea of unicorns (and narwhals) came up in a second book I was reading. It was a great exhibit too! One of the better and more fun ones I've seen lately. One of the things I LOVE about the Field Museum and their temporary or newer permanent exhibits is how they can totally immerse the visitor. As you walk in, you are surrounded by lighting and sound designs as well as interactive displays and multiple signage. All of it really brings the viewer into the exhibit to keep them interested in the topic and moving along throughout the gallery. As opposed to simply having glass cases with uniform lighting and labels. Sorry, my museum studies background crept into this review a bit. :-) At any rate, the mythological creatures exhibit was great and very informative. They offered up logical explanations for what giant sea serpents really were (a pack of dolphins jumping in and out of the water in the dark of night spaced apart just right), why people started believing in unicorns (the horns came from narwhals, the small whale-like creature that grows a giant horn out of its forehead), mermaid-lore, and other fun creatures such as dragons, griffins, giant apes, and more! If you are in Chicago between now and September 1, 2008, I highly recommend this exhibit.


Charley said...

I thought The Tail of Emily Windsnap was cute, although I didn't feel compelled to read on. Unlike the Percy Jackson series, where I couldn't wait to get my hands on the next book.

Holly said...

I would agree that it definitely is not as good or as excitig as Percy Jackson. I think I will read at last one more because I am curious to see where Kessler takes the story. :-)

allisonmariecat said...

Oh, I'm glad you liked Clawstone! I enjoy Ibbotsen quite a bit, obviously.

That exhibit sounds awesome! Maybe we can visit Matt's parents before it leaves...I would LOVE to take Lilah there.

GBK Gwyneth said...

OMG! I am reading your post from a hotel room in the western suburbs of Chicago. The girls and I were debating Field Museum versus Science and Technology. You made their day! Thanks :_)

Holly said...

Oh, I'm so glad I could help make your decision for you! I hope you guys enjoy the exhibit as much as I did. They have a lot of other fun stuff at the Field too. The Evolving Planet exhibit is pretty good as well. And you can see a lot of different animals in the "Nature Walk" exhibit.

If you get a chance to make it to Millennium Park, the girls might get a kick out of the giant "bean" sculpture called Cloud Gate. It's a bit of a walk for little ones from the Field Museum, especially if its hot. It's about 1.5 miles from the museum. But they also have a fun water experience in the Park that could help cool you off!

Enjoy the rest of your visit to Chicago! It's a great city!