cover image Earth, Fire, Water, Air

Earth, Fire, Water, Air

Mary Hoffman. Dutton Books, $19.99 (80pp) ISBN 978-0-525-45420-5

Hoffman (Amazing Grace) collects snippets of factual information, myths, stories, poems and musings in this fascinating volume about the four classic elements. At first glance the philosophy behind her selections may seem a bit heady, but Hoffman's inviting tone and lean writing style enable her to condense volumes of material from every age of world history into a relatively brief and accessible text. From ancient burial rituals to constellations in the night sky to legends of mermaids, kids will have much to mull over and enjoy. Occasional subjective comments reflect a general reverence for the natural world. Ray's (Magical Tales from Many Lands) exquisite dusty jewel-toned paintings complete this elegant package. The artist flourishes in her broadest scope of subject matter yet. Natural disasters, mythical beasts, scenes of contemporary children and symbols from various religions all have a home on these pages. Ray's by-now familiar folk art motifs and flecks of gold paint throughout give her work added vibrance. Ages 9-up. (Dec.)