The stories of the origin of the constellations we grow up with in the Western world in general come from the Graeco-Roman tradition, with some extra ones thrown in to finish the Western pantheon when European astronomers charted the southern skies. These stories used to be well known, but with both the loss of the night sky for most people and the loss of tradition, these stories are being forgotten. The sky histories of other native people of the world as globalisation puts Western stories at the forefront are also being lost. Susanna Hislop’s book is a retelling of the stories of the main constellations in a more light hearted approach than perhaps that of the texts of the past. She also introduces some of the stories of the stars from other cultures, in particular from the Southern Hemisphere.
There are simple charts for each constellation, with figures showing what they are meant to be. The stories aren’t always the classical ones and in some cases the writing seems a little trite and I am not sure what market this book is aimed at, adults or children. It is certainly a modern retelling of some of the original tales. The author does tend to wander away during some of the stories. I would say that the book is nicely produced and the drawings are excellent. Some of the stories may also not be quite the accepted ones. For example, the origin of the constellation of Scutum was to honour the Polish king for his victory over the Turks and not for any part he played in getting Hevelius’s life back together as far as I know. I think if you want a modern retelling of the constellation stories, then the book can be recommended. If you are after a more sober background to the constellation legends, then it may be better to look elsewhere.
Reviewed by Owen Brazell