Theresa Breslin, An Illustrated Treasury of Scottish Mythical Creatures

Floris Books, 2015, ISBN 978-178250-195-4

What an attractive book this is. Theresa Breslin is a highly accomplished writer, as her Carnegie medal demonstrates. Here she has created eleven gripping tales based on the folklore of different parts of Scotland. All are atmospheric and exceptionally well crafted. Breslin draws strongly on oral story-telling traditions, making this a lovely book to read aloud. Lovely to look at too, due to the very fine and evocative illustrations by Kate Leiper, which bring the stories to life. The pages are beautifully and clearly laid out.

Breslin's knowledge and love of her native land and its legends shine out in this collection. Some of the stories feature well-known mythical creatures, selkies for example, and the Loch Ness Monster. 'The Mermen of Bell Rock' intriguingly marries mythology with history. Lighthouse Engineer Robert Stevenson appears, and at the end so does his grandson, the wonderful story-teller Robert Louis Stevenson, an appealing homage from one Scottish author to another. There are many great protagonists, such as Kirsty MacLeod, hero of 'The Saving Grace', whose ingenuity and quick thinking outwit a wily and murderous fox, and the resourceful boy in 'The Archer and the Island Beast', who saves his fellow islanders not just from the monster that is eating them out of house and home, but also a despotic thane.

This will be enjoyed by six to ten year-olds and by older children with an interest in mythology, as well as by parents, carers and professionals who share it. It is the companion volume to An Illustrated Treasury of Scottish Folk and Fairy Tales. Like that book, it contains a useful glossary of unfamiliar words and phrases, along with pertinent snippets of history, geography and legend.