March 6, 2018

Creature Collections: The More the Merrier

        It’s been a long time since I’ve posted any creature collection reviews, mostly because it’s been a long time since my kids were particularly interested in them.  But I still like them, and as I’ve been researching possible creatures to complete my mythical alphabet, I’ve been looking at several recently.  Here are a few stragglers that P, T, and I had all looked at several years ago, as well as a few that I’ve been consulting in the past month.

        Magnificent Magical Beasts, by Simon Holland - Gorgeously illustrated by eight artists in lavish full-page spreads, this book features 17 of the most famous mythical creatures, along with notes about multiple variations of each, including variants from different parts of the world.  Included are quotations from historical sources, fun facts, and summaries of legends.  This doesn’t have enough creatures or information to count as a full-fledged reference book, but it is an especially attractive introduction to mythical creatures with enough scholarly heft to feel satisfying.
        Dragons and Serpents, by Gerrie McCall and Lisa Regan - We especially liked the format of this one.  Each two-page spread features one creature, sometimes a species, and sometimes a particular individual.  One page has a large picture highlighting certain features of the beast, while the other side includes a map, a summary of the legend concerning the creature, and additional details and notes of interest.  I really enjoyed the selection, which included monsters from ancient legend and modern literature, and from a wide array of cultures.  Unfortunately, I definitely disliked the full-page pictures of the creatures, most of which looked bizarrely distorted, apparently in an effort to use foreshortening to give an impression of 3-D action.  Better illustrations might have launched this book into the top tier.
        Mythologies: Dragons, by John Malam - The collage format combines tidbits of information, illustrations and photographs culled from various sources, maps,  and somewhat uninspiring original illustrations.  Information pages are interspersed with "Once upon a time" pages that retell dragon legends from Europe, the Middle East, the far East, and India.  T especially liked these stories.  P also gave this book a thumb up.
        Dragons (Mysterious Encounters series), by Kelli Brucken - This is possibly the most interesting of a number of superficially very similar books in similar series.  It includes some more diverse and interesting dragon tales, not just the same as all the others.  Perhaps most unusual is a chapter on modern dragon sightings.
  An A to Z of Monsters and Magical Beings, by Rob Hodgson and Aidan Onn -
One creature for each letter, illustrated with big, bold mixed-media spreads, some of which are quite charming, but most of which would not satisfy my childhood craving for “accurate” detail.  The creatures represent a smattering from diverse parts of the world and a few interesting surprises.  Each is described in a single paragraph that adds a bit of personal twist and humor to the traditional mythology, such as suggesting that you share your packed lunch with the minotaur or ice cream with a yeti.  Not substantive, but cute.

[Pictures: Cover of Magnificent Magical Beasts, but I can’t tell you which of the eight artists did this piece because I already had to return the book to the library, 2016;
Yetis, mixed media by Rob Hodgson from An A to Z of Monsters and Magical Beings, 2017.]

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