Virginia Hamilton,
In the Beginning:
Creation Stories from
Around the World
illustrated by Barry Moser
(Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1988)

In the beginning, the world was made. The earth, sky and sea were divided. The people and animals who live here were formed. All cultures are in pretty solid agreement about these ideas. The differences include who did the creating, how and why.

Virginia Hamilton does a great job introducing some of the world's many creation myths in In the Beginning, a marvelous book for any mythological enthusiast. Hamilton travels the world, dipping into the deep well of lore from many different cultures and offering just enough to whet an appetite for more.

Each tale is brief, just a few pages, and gorgeously illustrated with Barry Moser's expressive watercolor paintings. The book begins with Raven and the Pea-Pod Man, an Eskimo myth of the first person in the world. Quat, one of 12 sons born from the stone Quatgoro in Melanesia, makes the first men and pigs, and creates sleep with the first night, while a foolish brother discovers death. And among the Kono people of Guinea, the races are created -- and separated -- when a god steals Death's daughter away.

From the Far East to the American West, from the sultry tropics to the cold north, there are tales a-plenty to sate anyone's interest in creation mythology. The biblical version from Genesis is also included.

The sheer variety of beliefs and the manner in which early cultures perceived the world around them is fascinating, to say the least. This book is educational and multi-cultural -- but don't let that take away from your enjoyment of the words and images collected here.

Hamilton's prose is clear, easy to read and evocative of the many cultures she explores. Don't be surprised if you sit down and page quickly through the many tales she's collected; once you've started, it's hard to stop. But In the Beginning is also a great book to keep on the nightstand; one or two creation myths make for a grand end to the day -- read quietly alone or aloud to your family -- before turning out the light.

There is always room for another new beginning tomorrow.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 6 March 2004

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