Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

M is for Monster: A Fantastic Creatures Alphabet

M is for Monster: A Fantastic Creatures Alphabet

J. Patrick Lewis
Illustrator:  Gerald Kelley 
Poetry Book and Picture Book
For ages 7 to 12
Sleeping Bear Press, 2014   ISBN: 978-1585368181

All around the world there are stories about creatures that are beautiful, magical, monstrous, terrifying, or that are some combination of all of these things. Russia’s Baba Yaga is a horrific witch who flies around in a mortar using the pestle as a “steering wheel.” She seeks out children when she eats, and she lives in a horrible house that sits on chicken legs. In Scotland, a plesiosaur-type creature is said to inhabit Loch Ness, and though many people think that Nessie is a not real, many others love to believe that she really lives in the cold, dark depths of the lake.

These are just two of the “Fantastic Creatures” who live on the pages of this splendid alphabet book. The author takes us through the alphabet, pairing a monster, creature or being with every letter of the alphabet. For each topic, readers are given an illustration, a poem, and a section of text describing the creature featured on that page.

Some of the creatures we meet are found only in one place. Nessie is only found in Scotland, though sea serpents are said to live in other places as well. The Inuit people tell of Amarok, which is a fearsome wolf that will prey on any animal that is foolish enough to venture into the forest at night. The state of New Jersey even has its own monster, known as the Jersey Devil. The creature is said to have “batlike wings, a forked tail, and a piercing scream.”

Other creatures are found all over the world, creatures like vampires, dragons, zombies and werewolves.

Most of the beings and monsters that we meet in this book are, without a doubt, quite terrifying and are often dangerous to humans, but there are a few that are peaceable and maybe even friendly. Unicorns are usually portrayed as being beautiful ethereal animals that have “magical powers to cleanse poisoned water and heal sickness.” Elves can be friendly, but in some cultures they are often mischievous and when roused to anger they can be unpleasant. The phoenix is also a benign creature that lives out its bizarre life cycle quietly. It is often considered to be a “sign of renewal, / symbol courageous.”

This splendid book, one in a series of alphabet books published by Sleeping Bear Press, can be enjoyed on many levels. Little children will enjoy looking at the beautiful artwork as the poems are read to them, while older children will be intrigued by the sections of text that are full of lore and stories about the creatures that are featured in the book.

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