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Monsterology
by Dr. Ernest Drake and Dugald Steer


Last December, I reviewed several titles from the Ologies series, including Dragonology, Egyptology and Illusionology. Since it's Christmas time, and I have young nephews, I found myself again contemplating these gorgeous picture books. The boys are still too young for Ologies, but since 2013 marks the ten year anniversary of the series, I think I'll spend this week exploring more Ologies volumes.

Previous “Ologies” book reviews can be read here.

Dr. Ernest Drake, author of Dragonology, returns with a new book about many of the unusual creatures he encountered over the years during his pursuit of dragons. Whether the beasts live on the earth, in the sea, or soar through the air, Drake does his best to scientifically chronicle each one. After the featured creatures, appendices chronicle spells and charms associated with these animamls and the adventures of historic monsterologists.

Why they named the book “Monsterology” when the perfectly applicable word “Cryptozoology” already exists eludes me. I suppose it's because the book, which claims to be written in the late 19th or early 20th century, may predate the use of the word cryptozoology, but it seems more likely that the word may have been thought too difficult for younger readers.

I thought that this book was a rather weak follow-up to Dragonology. With so many different monsters and mythological characters to catalog, Drake doesn't have time or space to go into depth. For familiar creatures like dragons and unicorns, I didn't feel like I missed much, but many of Drake's choices might be pretty obscure for a young audience. How many kids are familiar with the baku, a creature of Japanese origin? Well, all they will get in this book is a small drawing and a couple of sentences, which doesn't cover much. Worse, in his entry on the nue Drake compares it to another creature called a tanuki - but nowhere in the book is this creature cataloged, so unless the child has encountered the name before it won't be helpful.

To give praise where it is truly due, the illustrations are beautiful. Each animal looks as real as if these sketches came straight from a 19th century biologist's field notes. I also loved that each animal entry includes a small map highlighting what countries or continents these creatures inhabit.

Compared to other Ologies titles, this book is quite light on interactive features. There are a few envelopes with letters inside, and a couple of booklets, but these are generally shorter and smaller than in other books. At the very back of the book, there's a “cabinet of curiosities” that contain several cryptid artifacts, and even a blank “shelf” for the child to add his or her own bit of ephemera. But there are no games or collectible cards as there were in Mythology or Illusionology.

I have a feeling that if I'd encountered Monsterology without knowing that it's part of a series, I would have been much more impressed with it. But having seen what this publisher is capable of, I find that this book simply fell short of expectations.


3 out of 5 stars


To read more about Monsterology, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.




Peeking into the archives...today in:
2012: Showcase Presents: Ghosts Vol. 1 by Various
2011: Fashionista Piranha Book Blog on hold for a few weeks!
2010: Closing down for end of year Festivus...
2009: News: Stealing Books
2008: Book Group Expo: Where There's A Will: Shakespeare in the 21st Century

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