Lost Worlds, by John Howe, for Nonfiction Monday

There are some books which, the moment you see them, invite you to open them. The opening is accompianied by appreciative murmurs, and thoughts of gift giving. Lost Worlds, by John Howe (Kingfisher, 2009, older middle grade on up, 95 pp), is just such a book. Mysterious looking. Engaging. Alluring. And with great content inside!

In his introduction, Howe (who was the concept artist for the Lord of the Rings movies) writes:

"There are two kinds of lost worlds: Those abandoned in time, buried and forgotten, like Aratta or Mohenjo-Daro, and the ones that live in the imagination, from Atlantis to Camelot. The first ones we might call real, since they once had streets filled with people. The latter are real, too, but in a different way; they embody our need for symbols and meaning." (page 9)

And so he sets out to offer a tour of the lost worlds (both real and fantastical) that have captured the imaginations of people for millennia. Howe takes his readers from the Garden of Eden, to Thebes, to Cahokia, Shambhala, Avalon and the Hollow Earth (and many more magical places--24 in all), offering, like a good tour guide, much clearly presented information about each one. Alongside the words are pictures--both beautiful original art, and also photographs of the real places and artifacts from them. The detailed, colorful illustrations bring the places to life--the reader can imagine, for instance, walking the streets of Mohenjo-Daro, or arriving at Timbuktu...

The imaginary places included are skewed toward a European world-view, and even some of the places that aren't in Europe are discussed from the point of view of European eyes. There is, however, considerable cultural and geographical variety. The one striking geographical omission from the lost places featured is East Asia--there are no lost worlds of China or Japan (although there is Shambhala, high in the Himalayas). A few are included in the Appendix at the end, which gives tantalizingly brief descriptions of more lost worlds. Although there's a glossary and an index, I would really have appreciated a map--many of the places described are real, and it would be useful to know where they are.

That being said, this is a beautiful book, one that educates as it entertains. It would a great gift for the middle-school kid (maybe 5th grade up) who is fascinated by archaeology and mythology (and who loves the "ology" books). It would also make a good gift for an older fantasy loving teenager, or even an adult lover of fantasy. And, as an added bonus, there's a forward by Ian McKellen (aka Gandalf).

Review copy received from the publisher.

Today's Non-Fiction Monday is at Tales from the Rushmore Kid.


  1. OMG, I'm sold. I think I'll get it for my...um...son...for Christmas :)

  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you!! This is the perfect birthday present for my impossible-to-shop-for son - and not a minute too late!


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