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Young readers book reviews for ages 8 to 12 years old

*Monsterology: The Complete Book of Monstrous Beasts* by Dr. Ernest Drake, edited by Dugald A. Steer- young readers book review
Also by Dugald Steer:

The Wizardology Handbook: A Course for Apprentices (Ologies)

Spyology: The Complete Book of Spycraft

Dragonology: The Complete Book of Dragons
Monsterology: The Complete Book of Monstrous Beasts
by Dr. Ernest Drake, edited by Dugald A. Steer
Ages 9-12 32 pages Candlewick August 2008 Hardcover    

The ‘ology books are a full, broad experience that tickles the imagination and delights the eyes. The artwork in Monsterology is pleasing to children and adults - indeed, it was fought over in this household in a tug of war between big hands and little ones when it arrived in the mail. Monsterology is another in the long line of informative, interactive books catering to history and fantasy buffs. This volume handles “monsters” from nightmares and from fairy tales both, and it offers art and (semi)authentic knowledge in a fully comprehensive package.

Before the book is even opened, its cover offers a promise that makes little eyes brighten and twinkle. An embossed shiny green dragon woven with snakes, eagles, and lions - somewhat reminiscent of (admittedly simplistic) knotwork designs - surrounds a seal with glowing ruby gems, mysterious writing, and two different kinds of dragons. The claim “The Complete Book of Monstrous Beasts” boldly welcomes exploration without limits. It looks like the sort of old-fashioned volume that keeps its commitment to enlighten while it entertains.

The very first page invites “a few intrepid souls” to break the seal, take up the passport stamped 1898, and come see yetis, dragons, and the unusual Feejee Mermaids. Dr. Earnest Drake begins a new adventure, sharing his finds in what he calls a “thrilling new science called Monsterology”. His passion was dragons, but he has found that there are many more mysterious creatures to be sought out.

Upon his sea-worthy vessel Hydra, Dr, Drake spotted his first sea serpent in 1898. Thus began his quest to seek out and keep safe as many mystical and monstrous creatures as he could ‘round the world. Wonder how to keep a hippogriph safe, what and how they eat? Are unicorns real? What of griffens, minotaurs, krakens, chimeras?

Evidence is laid forth, in the form of his personal notes, throughout his voyage. There are also snippets of myths from place to place, and treasured items like a piece of sea-serpent skin. Debunking some of those old myths is part of his work, as well. The map is perfect - weathered in appearance and marked with sightings as well as disclaimers. Sizes, weights, common food preferences as well as charms and spells that one might find useful in a journey like his are all organized thoughtfully and with immense thoroughness.

The “scientific names” lend the whole experience an aura of reality. Land, air, sea creatures, even the semi-human beasts like vampires or fauns - our enthusiastic explorer covers them all. Finally, Dr. Drake leaves his followers with advice on how to seek out fabulous monsters for ourselves, from the supplies needed to suggestions about specific methods of summoning or where to wait patiently.

From full-color pictures to pencil sketch-like images, each page offers new ideas and creatures to visually feast upon. The pages are graced with intricate borders, sectioned information, and little asides to keep even the youngest child engaged. (Though it is most definitely a little on the fragile side; young fingers might do well with supervision, if the book is to remain in one piece!) Tiny flaps, little books, specimens and envelopes make the book feel interactive. The “knowledge” offered is easy to take literally as real-world teachings. If only text books were written such!

The vibrancy in both art and words makes Monsterology a must-have volume for any well-stocked home library. It is one of the best in the ‘ology series of books. The skeptics might say it is all hogwash and gimmicks; perhaps we should all research and decide for ourselves. Accept Dr. Drake’s invitation to become a Student Monsterologist and set sail around the world. The monsters and creatures to be found are endless.
Young readers book reviews for ages 8 to 12 years old

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  Carolynn Evans/2009 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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