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The Hidden Bestiary of Marvelous, Mysterious, and (Maybe Even) Magical Creatures Review by Jenny Thompson

By Judy Young
Illustrated by Laura Francesca Filippucci
Sleeping Bear Press
PO Box 9187
Farmington Hills, MI 48333

Get ready to go on an adventure across the globe as you travel with Basil Bernard Barnswhitten (B.B.B.), renowned explorer and discoverer of all creatures odd and interesting. This explorer has been working on a report entitled "Animal Curiosities, Oddities & Improbabilities I Have Known and Discovered." While trying to verify his list of creatures, he finds that some of them are missing from their cases in the Finchhaven Museum of Extraordinary Curiosities, Oddities & Improbabilities. So, off he goes to seek and to find these wonderfully weird creatures around the world. As he works on his list, he needs to answer three important questions about each animal: Is it alive? Is it extinct? and "Did it ever exist?" You, the reader, are invited to join in his exciting search.

With beautiful pictures and well-written prose, The Hidden Bestiary of Marvelous, Mysterious, and (Maybe Even) Magical Creatures delighted my daughter (age 6), who enjoys solving mysteries. The poems that hold the clues to each animal's fate were a bit above my daughter's comprehension level, but she absolutely loved the pictures in which the animals were hiding, along with other creatures, waiting to be found. She couldn't wait for me to read the Field Guide in the back of the book so that she could hear about each animal. Some of the fun creatures that B.B.B. searches for include the Loch Ness monster, a whooping crane, and the dodo bird. My daughter's favorite imaginary animal was the jackalope.

Young children like my daughter will be thrilled by the illustrations and hidden pictures in this book. Older elementary children will have fun solving the clues to determine whether the creatures are real or imagined. They can also use this book as a springboard for finding out more about the animals featured in the book. It might inspire them to learn more about animals that are now extinct and to find out what led to their extinction. They may want to read legends and folktales about other make-believe animals. They could even write their own bestiary about mysterious creatures! The differences between poetry and prose can be explored. As you can see, many homeschool lessons can be found in this book.

Judy Young has done an excellent job of capturing the imagination of children through B.B.B. and the odd animals he encounters on his journey. Parents and children alike will be captivated by this bestiary. I highly recommend The Hidden Bestiary of Marvelous, Mysterious, and (Maybe Even) Magical Creatures.

Product review by Jenny Thompson, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, February 2010