Explore the Ghoulish side of the Globe with the Atlas of Monsters and Ghosts!

The picture depicts a teal-colored fish-like monster with a yellow eye next to the book, which has a teal color and depicts a variety of monsters, including dragons, snakes, and Dracula.

By Claudia J.

Ok, I’ll admit it: I love Halloween but I’m not the biggest fan of scary things. You won’t catch me at a movie theater watching the latest film from the Halloween franchise or reading IT by Stephen King. I tend to focus on the lighter side of the season. Yet, when I was browsing through some of the oversized books that live upstairs at the Miller Branch, I stopped at a bright teal atlas filled to the brim with whimsical illustrations and trips around our world. However, instead of historic sites and tourist destinations, this atlas is filled with MONSTERS and GHOSTS!

Atlas of Monsters and Ghosts by Federica Magrin, with immensely detailed illustrations by Larua Brenlla, takes readers on a ghastly trip to hunt down the most fearsome creatures known to humanity. Each continent is covered throughout the pages, highlighting monsters and ghosts with cultural significance. I’m sure most of us already know of Bigfoot, King Kong, and the Boogeyman through classic stories and tales. But have you heard of the Smok Wawelski from Poland, a fearsome dragon from the cave at the foot of Wawel Hill? Or Krasue, the spirit from Thailand with the floating head who feeds on anything in her sights? These monsters and spirits are not only highlighted, but their stories are tied in with learning about each country’s tales and fables. One particular feature of the atlas that I enjoyed was that it gave special sections to the monsters and spirits of Greek Mythology and the ones from Japanese folktales, both of which have been spotlighted in various other stories, movies, and video games.

One fair warning for all my budding Monster Hunters: some of these stories, no matter your age, are not for the faint of heart despite its art style and its publisher, Lonely Planet Kids. Nevertheless, it was an interesting, spooktacular read, one that may send a chill up your spine, but which will definitely teach you something new along the way. What I learned is to not visit the places where these creatures have been spotted! I think I’ll opt for a warm beach instead.

You can borrow or request Atlas of Monsters and Ghosts at all HCLS locations for your horrific, spooky enjoyment.

Claudia J. is an Instructor and Research Specialist for Howard County Library System. She enjoys stories in all forms, from books to graphic novels, movies to video games: you name it!

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

A Navajo woman dressed in jeans, leather jacket, and tradition Navajo footwear and wrappings stands on the roof of an old red pickup truck, holding a shotgun and a long knife. Lightnight arcs across the image, with dust yellow storm clouds behind.

Review by Kristen B.

Meet Maggie Hoskie: monster hunter, Navajo (Diné) clan warrior, and first person narrator of Rebecca Roanhorse’s debut novel. In Trail of Lightning, the world as we know it has been mostly destroyed by earthquakes and subsequent floods. A strange thing happened during that time: Navajo history, gods, and legends came back to life and walls appeared around what was the reservation, protecting Dinétah from the worst of the predations happening in the outside world. It was something of a mixed blessing, for while traditional Diné clan life continued stronger than ever, it also brought back the scary parts of legend along with the good. As the book opens, Maggie doubts if she’s one of the good guys or just another one of the monsters she hunts. (Just to note: given the nature of the story, this book is chock-full of fairly graphic violence.)

This quick-paced, smart-mouthed action-adventure story takes place entirely within the Navajo world. The book opens with Maggie chasing a monster across the high desert hills, one who had kidnapped a young girl. We learn that Maggie’s clan powers include swiftness and battle rage, which serve her well in her vocation. In the aftermath, we meet her honorary grandfather Tah and Tah’s actual grandson Kai, who may or may not be a magician but is definitely something of a fashion plate. Tah practices the traditional scheme of grandparents everywhere by throwing his two favorite young folks together, in hopes of friendship and maybe even romance.

Maggie’s life is further complicated when her old friend Mai’i (Coyote) turns up at her trailer asking for a favor. Coyote plays his usual trickster part, but honestly, he’s only trying to make things better. The story becomes a race to find and eliminate a growing threat to Dinétah, which eventually involves a wide range of locals and legends. Maggie ends up having to deal directly with her one-time mentor and lover, Neizhgani, the (sort of) god of lightning. Maggie achieves some clarity and closure in the end, but it is a hard won truth that leaves everyone a little heartsore.

I had visited the Navajo reservation shortly before reading this book, and I could picture the locations clearly with the rock formations and scrubby landscape. Roanhorse is Black and Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo, and her husband and daughter are Navajo. She uses Diné terms for the clans and their powers, for the legends and gods, and it’s as strange in its own way as any other fantasy setting. This is the language of the WWII Code Talkers, which no one else in the world could decipher. It’s a powerful way to display Native American culture, asking the reader to figure out terminology from context without a glossary or other appendix. Roanhorse uses the place and language to good effect, creating a sense of other-ness that’s actually grounded in reality.

If you love this book as much as I do, I also recommend the sequel, Storm of Locusts. Maggie ventures out into the wider world … in a story no less filled with monsters and companions for the journey.

Kristen B. has worked for HCLS for more than 15 years, and currently hosts the Books on Tap discussion group at Hysteria Brewing Company. She loves reading, Orioles baseball, and baking.