Burleigh Muten, Goddesses: A World of Myth and Magic (Barefoot Books, 2003)
Goddesses is a lovely book with a lovely aim. As a child, Burleigh Muten was fascinated and inspired by the legend of Artemis, the Greek goddess of the hunt, moon, childbirth, and nature. She compiled this encyclopedia of goddesses from around the world in an effort to spark a similar interest in other children. Unfortunately, in spite of a noble intent and gorgeous illustrations by Rebecca Guay, this book falls shy of its goal.
The most significant problem is that there are so many goddesses included, and each entry is but a single short paragraph; a few sentences that may be adequate enough for descriptive purposes, but fail to pique any true interest. Additionally, rather than categorizing the entries in a functional way, they have been arranged in the obvious alphabetical order. Goddesses of all types and from all over the globe are lumped together in a meaningless fashion.
At first glance the artwork almost appears to be the redeeming virtue of Goddesses. Certainly, children will be drawn in by the illustrations. The goddesses are all depicted as stunningly beautiful, and the illustrations are colorful detailed. However, when after reading the text I went through and just looked at the pictures, I immediately noticed that with a few exceptions, all the goddesses wear the same serene expression and have very similar features. Basically, most of these women look like they could be the supermodels of today. Chances are, most young people wouldn't notice this, but as an adult I can't help but wish for some diversity.
The result of Muten and Guay's efforts is a book that looks nice on the shelf and might prove of some use as a reference tool to a child already interested in the subject, but is otherwise unremarkable. With so many remarkable examples of womanhood just waiting to inspire young girls to find their own uniqueness and power, there was a fine opportunity missed here.