This book, to me, has everything a children’s book should have: a glorious fabric and gold-embossed cover to entice you within, exquisite illustrations, fantastical content (magical beasts from myths and lore around the world) and a sense of adventure.
The book opens with a letter, sent a century ago, from zoologist Dr Dimitros Pagonis to pilot Artemis Matsouka, inviting Matsouka to join him on a worldwide trip to survey magical beasts in their natural habitats, and thus the book is a guidebook for Matsouka to peruse before committing to the job.
Matsouka’s diary entries of their tour are woven throughout the guide. Alongside the usual suspects - dragons, centaurs, unicorns, yeti - are less familiar and utterly bewitching creatures, such as Grootslang, the elephant-headed serpent of South Africa that hoards diamonds in its underground lair; Mishepishu, a mysterious aquatic beast from North America which looks like a cat crossed with a goat and a dragon and has the ability to whip up winds and storms; or the German Wolpertinger, a rabbit with wings and horns - when its saliva is rubbed into human skin it encourages hair growth. Rather than taniwha - a shoo-in, surely? - the mention New Zealand gets is about Te Wheke-a-Muturangi, the enormous octopus said to have been pursued across the Pacific Ocean by the explorer Kupe, all the way from Hawaiki (legendary homeland of Māori) to Aotearoa.
The perfect gift for curious kids, five to 12-years-old (and their curious adult whānau.)
Reviewer: Stacey Anyan
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books