Monday, October 26, 2015

Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods by Hal Johnson; illustrated by Tom Mead

Sure, you've heard of Bigfoot and chupacabras, but what about snoligosters, wapaloosim, and leprocauns (not leprechauns)? The ghoulishly fun Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods introduces readers to twenty legendary and fantastical creatures, including the latter three.

Our guide to the "wild and untamed" lumberwoods of North America is a cryptozoologist, one who is, "if I do say so myself, at or near the forefront of my field. So many colleagues have been eaten by chimeras, incinerated by salamanders, or pecked to death by barnacle geese; there is not necessarily much competition left."

Each short chapter is devoted to a single creature, accompanied by an illustration (some of which glow in the dark!), and explains why it is so hard to find, as well as what it does to the unfortunate people who, purposefully or accidentally, run into one. Fortunately for us, our cryptozoologist narrator has encountered many of them firsthand, like the toteroad shagamaw in Maine or the whintosser in California, and survived to share his wisdom.

I'd like to say that the stories in this collection are deliciously gory, except some of them involve rather unfortunate meals. Then again, considering the Acropelter entry in particular, this is probably a fitting description. While written for a middle grade audience (though obviously by now, I hope, not for sensitive readers), older readers will also find much to entertain them here. It's not so much spooky as it is gleefully dark and bloody; even if you don't find something creepy or disgusting, the dryly ridiculous narration more than makes up for it. The book imagines bizarre ends for Gavrilo Princip and Huey P. Long, has some great puns and a delusionally conceited narrator, in chapters just the right length to be effective without dragging on and overdoing it. Needless to say, I found the entire package hilarious and totally enjoyable.

Book info
Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods by Hal Johnson; illustrated by Tom Mead
Published 2015 by Workman (ISBN 9780761184614)
Middle Grade folklore/short stories
Review copy sent by publisher


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