Critical Context

Virginia Hamilton is a prolific and widely read author of children’s books, with works ranging from realistic and historical fiction to mystery, fantasy, and folktales. In the Beginning is one of her books of retold tales for which she has won numerous awards, including The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales (1985) and The Dark Way: Stories of the Spirit World (1990). The tug of tradition and the importance of recognizing one’s relationship with a cultural past are noted as frequent themes in many of her books. In The Time-Ago Tales of Jahdu (1969), Time-Ago Lost: More Tales of Jahdu (1973), and The All Jahdu Storybook (1991), Hamilton uses realism, fantasy, allegory, and folktale to illustrate the link between a contemporary boy and the past. Her novel The House of Dies Drear (1968), one of her most successful works, combines realism and mystery with the history of the Underground Railroad. Although highly readable and engaging, Hamilton’s books challenge readers to think about their identity and their role in their families and encourage them to see themselves as part as a larger cultural community. In the Beginning extends that invitation to understand, accept, and embrace the great human effort to create stories that will make sense of the world.

Retelling and presenting twenty-five Creation myths and packaging them to suggest some kind of unity is a daunting task,...

(The entire section is 461 words.)