Simon Holland, A Miscellany of Magical Beasts, Bloomsbury/Allen & Unwin, Oct 2016, 48pp., $29.99 (hbk), ISBN: 9781408881958
I had just been thinking to myself that what I really needed was an encyclopaedic volume containing a comprehensive listing of different mythical beings and creatures from a variety of cultures all over the world, when what should land on my doorstep but Simon Holland’s A Miscellany of Magical Beasts! Ah, ‘tis the very thing, I thought to myself!
Holland’s Miscellany is like a reference guide to every kind of creature that’s popped up in myth or legend from the dawn of civilisation itself. We learn about the origins of these creatures, the different versions and interpretations of the myths that have surfaced in different cultures, the purpose and nature of the beasts, and we even learn a little bit about what to do if we should happen to meet one of these magical beings.
A non-fiction book of the extraordinary, Miscellany is a collection of lore like the ones you might find in fantasy stories when the characters are trying to find out as much as they can about the magical creatures that form part of their quest, be it how to catch, trick or befriend them!
I particularly appreciated the homage paid to the classics… my five-year old is very much into mythology at the moment – particularly the Greek variety – and when we turned to the double page devoted to Pegasus the flying horse, he just about hit the ceiling. After only reading through the book once he was able to recite facts about the different creatures, and already had a few favourites picked out.
The book is beautifully illustrated by a number of artists: Gary Blythe, David Demaret, Nelson Evergreen, John Howe, Mike Love, Kev Walker, Helen Ward and David Wyatt. It suits children who love magical creatures and animals, and grown-ups who never left that love behind.
Reviewed by Christian Price