Cover image for The four corners of the sky : creation stories and cosmologies from around the world
The four corners of the sky : creation stories and cosmologies from around the world
Zeitlin, Steven J.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Henry Holt and Co., 2000.
Physical Description:
135 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
A collection of folk stories from around the world, each accompanied by background information, that explain the various perspectives of different peoples on how the universe and their world came to be.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PZ8.1.Z35 FO 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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What is the universe? How did it get that way? Here are thought-provoking answers from throughout history and around the world.

"In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth." - King James Bible

"In the beginning, before men, before the Gods, all was chaos." - Greek myth

Folklorist Steve Zeitlin gives answers to the questions everyone asks about the nature of the universe: What is it? Where did it come from? Will it end? A picture of the universe is a cosmology, and every culture has its own. People build these stories from the world around them. The ancient Egyptians who saw the Nile flood yearly told stories of gods who rise, die, and are reborn. The Maori living on the wind and sea-battered island of New Zealand tell of sea, land, and sky gods in eternalcombat.

Readers will discover the Iroquois who pictured the world on a turtle's back; the Southeast Asians who described the world as a flat disc held up by three elephants; even Genesis and the Big Bang theories are included. Zeitlin retells each myth, legend, folktale or theory as a story filled with wonder and imagination.

Now every child who tries to build a picture of the universe will see how he or she fits in the grand tradition of human thought and imagination.

Author Notes

Steve Zeitlin co-authored While Standing On One Foot and The Cow of No Color . He is the director of City Lore, which documents and presents the living cultural heritage of New York City.

Chris Raschka is the Caldecott Honor illustrator of Yo! Yes! and other highly praised books, including Simple Gifts . He lives in New York City with his wife and son.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Gr. 7^-12. "No culture is content just to see and describe its universe--we always want to learn where it came from and where it is going," says the author in his thoughtful introduction to this collection of world cosmologies. Grouped according to common theme ("Between Two Parents, Earth and Sky," "Cycles of Creation and Destruction," etc.), the selections represent a wide range of both ancient and modern cultures and religions: Greek, Maori, Egyptian, Norse, Hindu, Jain, Iroquois, Chinese, and Haitian, as well as an excerpt from the Book of Genesis and a highly readable introduction to the big bang theory. Zeitlin introduces each entry with cultural and historical background, written, like the myths themselves, in powerful, straightforward language that brings a concise simplicity to such broad, abstract concepts. Chris Raschka's stylish, culture-specific graphic designs enliven the text without literally translating the stories. A conclusion calling for tolerance across cultures and extensive source notes round out this intriguing volume that will find wide curricular support. --Gillian Engberg

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5 Up-Zeitlin introduces 16 cosmologies from ancient cultures, including Maori, Egyptian, Greek, Hebrew, Inca, Jain, Desana Indian, Haitian, Iroquois, Fon, Chumash, and Chinese. Early Western scientific theories as well as contemporary scientific views are noted, and nearly every cultural view is accompanied by a myth about how the universe came to be. Stories with a similar theme, such as the Hindu and Norse beliefs in cycles of creation and destruction, have been grouped together. Each cosmology is accompanied by a brief introduction and a black-and-white illustration based on designs, objects, or artifacts of the culture it represents. Thorough source notes and a further reading list enhance the research value. While there is some overlap here with Virginia Hamilton's more poetic In the Beginning (Harcourt, 1988), Four Corners will be a valuable resource for storytellers, teachers, and students with a serious interest in mythology.-Ginny Gustin, Sonoma County Library System, Santa Rosa, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.