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Questionable Creatures: A Bestiary    by Pauline Baynes order for
Questionable Creatures
by Pauline Baynes
Order:  USA  Can
Eerdmans, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by Kerrily Sapet

Manticores, bonnacons, sirens, satyrs, and more. If you like the grim, the gruesome, and some imaginary, scary animals, this bestiary is for you. Author Pauline Baynes has created Questionable Creatures: A Bestiary, offering up the scoop on twenty different animals - both real and imagined - that were prominent throughout history.

Baynes begins by explaining that bestiaries were small illustrated books containing descriptions of all of the animals thought to exist. These books, mainly the work of monks, flourished between 1000 and 1300 A.D.. Much of the information was inaccurate, but the written word was sacred, and people believed wholeheartedly in what they were told or could read. The information within these bestiaries was believed for hundreds of years. For example, up until the 1700s, people believed powdered unicorn horn cured diarrhea. Baynes makes this explanation a transition to offer a word of warning about the magical properties of some animal cures today.

Children will delight in the illustrations and the fantastic facts that color the pages. Who hasn't always wanted a better description of a manticore or a satyr? Interestingly, Baynes also offers asides on how certain legends got started, such as in the case of the bonnacon, whose main defense (much to the delight of elementary-aged boy readers) was a flame-inducing 'revolting fart of wet dung.' You just can't make this stuff up. Baynes suggests that perhaps the bonnacon was the buffalo. Through asides like this, she is wildly successful at bringing the medieval bestiary to life for modern children. Her book gives a fascinating peek into the imaginations of people hundreds of years ago, and their beliefs about the world around them.

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