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Thursday, January 06, 2011


The Legend of a Lost City
by Christina Balit

Ages 4-8

Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) (May 1, 2000)

Having heard and read (selected) stories from Indian mythology for a couple of years now, Ana seemed eager for more legends and fables from other parts of the world. We've been reading a few snippets online on and off (Greek, Norse, Chinese, Egyptian), nothing overwhelming or intense, but something child-friendly and minimally doctored. The inherent themes of wickedness, raciness, reparation, violence and the nature of good and evil in most of the tales could get overwhelming - at least for me, so I am not in a rush to read it all to her.

One of the books we read last November, Atlantis: The Legend of a Lost City by Christina Balit seems to have made an impression on the 5¾ year old. The combination of illustrations and the ever-fascinating lore is probably the primary reason for this infatuation.

Poseidon and Cleito, with their 5 sets of twin boys, the description of the beautiful island city, the contentment and peace giving way to restlessness, resentment and wrath of the gods as people of the city give in to the baser nature of humanity, all seem to have created the right measure of drama and romance.

The short note at the back by Geoffrey Ashe sparked as much interest as the rest of the book, speculating on the possible location of Atlantis as well as the truth behind the tale.

As mentioned in this bio, Ms.Balit's illustrations have a distinctive style that draws from the Greek and Mediterranean art, with vibrant colors and striking impact.

When request for second and third and fourth reads immediately follow the first, back-to-back, with barely any pause for catching my breath, I know the book has made an impression.

The book spawned off a number of questions regarding god in the context of her own life and we had some interesting discussions. Zeus' wrath and Poseidon's decision to destroy the city watching people being hurtful to each other possibly triggered a number of thoughts in her head, trying to clearly demarcate the world of mythology from her own...

Now that dust has settled at home on this legend, with a satisfactory note to herself that the city is buried in the Atlantic Ocean and cannot ever be found as it all melted away (or perhaps, "Plato made it all up, Mama"), Ana has moved on to other fanciful tales, with Alice in Wonderland in the lead.

Bernard Evslin's Heroes, Gods, and Monsters of the Greek Myths has been a favorite of mine, filling in for those in-between times when I am waiting for the next good book. It will be a while before Ana is ready for Evslin's tome, but in the meantime, I am sure I'll be on the lookout for more such picture books like Atlantis...

[image source:]

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