Reviews /

Goddess

Authored by Dr Janina Ramirez
Illustrated by Sarah Walsh
Published by Nosy Crow

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Goddess tells the stories of 50 female figures from myth and religion. And explains how cultures remember and celebrate these inspiring, courageous, and sometimes wicked, women.

As the introduction explains, the figures aren’t just goddesses. Included are spirits, witches, saints, demons and also a mountain. Split into sections titled: Ruling and Guiding; New Life; War and Death; Love and Wisdom and Animals and Nature. Each figure has a double-page spread and opens with a brief overview. There’s then a story from which they’re most known and a ‘shaping belief’ subheading which tells us what impact they made, or still make today.

There’s a lot to grab your attention here (more on the illustrations later), but what made me keep turning the pages was the sheer variety of cultures and religions. Although it’s not an exhaustive list, it does represent many corners of the globe. As a result, the mix of well-known figures and more “obscure” ones keep you engaged. I use the word “obscure” with caution. Although many of the figures are new to me, a lot of people will be pleased to see their cultures represented.

If you’ve not come across Dr Janina Ramirez before, she’s someone you should be aware of. Her subject knowledge and gift of presenting it to varied audiences makes her work accessible and engaging. Sarah Walsh knows about being engaging too. Vibrant in colour and mood, the artwork brings out the personalities of the figures perfectly. Two of my favourite images are Chang’e the Chinese Goddess of the Moon, and Badb Catha, Irish war Goddess.

The text helpfully tells the reader how to pronounce ‘Badb’ (‘Bav’). However, more names should have been spelt phonetically. Children will want to talk about and share what they’ve learnt and will want to say them correctly. The glossary at the back was great but the words in the glossary aren’t in bold where they appear in the text. This makes it hard to know if an unusual word is in the glossary or not.

That aside, the goddesses, spirits, saints, and demons are fascinating. Each one is as individual as the last. Female figures have been seen as leaders, creators, nurturers, warriors, healers, and much more for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years. It’s a shame that so many of them are largely unknown outside of their respective cultures. Luckily, Nosy Crow, Dr Janina Ramirez, and Sarah Walsh are opening the doors to the female figures who have shaped belief across time and seas. Some of the stories are wonderfully gruesome, which would make this more suitable for UKS2 and above.