An Illustrated Guide to Mythical Creatures is written by Anita Ganeri and illustrated by David West. It’s a rather attractive hardcover book for children ages 9 to 12 that is exactly what is described by the title – a reference to various figures and types of creatures from mythology containing many 3D computer generated graphics.
This is not an in-depth guide to mythology but more of an overview of recurring creature archetypes. I certainly wouldn’t call it encyclopedic – you could probably find more depth on each creature in any AD&D Monster Manual – but for a child who is going to be more interested in pretty colors than feeding habits or habitat patterns of monsters it has an appropriate amount of content. It consists of a brief introduction and index as well as sections on the following:
- Dragons, Serpents and Worms
- Flying Creatures
- Half-Human, Half-Beast
- Water Beasts
- Demons, Ghouls and Ghosts
Each of these generalized categories is then divided into several more specific types of creatures, most of which just have a paragraph describing them.
Mythologies from all over the world are included such as Greek, Celtic, Australian, Chinese, Aztec, Japanese, Egyptian and Native American. As an introductory guide, of course many of the usual suspects are present such as Medusa, unicorns, the Sphinx, vampires, and the Loch Ness monster. However, there were still a few that were more obscure:
In the mythology of Bali, Leyaks are hideous flying creatures that haunt graveyards and feed on dead bodies. By day, they appear as ordinary humans. At night, their gruesome heads and internal organs break out of their bodies and fly. pp. 15
(For those who are curious, the picture of the Leyak looks like a severed head with bat wings – I wouldn’t want to meet one of those in a graveyard or anywhere else in the middle of the night!)
Every page is laid out very nicely with lots of pictures to go with the different descriptions, and the beginning of each new chapter has a full page image to go with it.
An Illustrated Guide to Mythical Creatures is a great book for introducing children to world mythologies. It’s keeps each explanation fairly short and to the point and provides many pictorial examples of what the various creatures look like.
My Rating: 8/10
Where I got my reading copy: A publicist sent me a copy.