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Bestiary: An Illuminated Alphabet of Medieval Beasts Hardcover – October 1, 1998


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Hunt (Illuminations) revisits the Middle Ages in this alphabetical roundup of fearsome imaginary creatures gleaned from traditions around the globe. The always ravenous catoblepas (Ethiopia) "would often gnaw its own forelegs in frustration" and "could kill with a single look"; the javelin snake (Europe) hid in trees and "hurled itself downward like a spear" onto passersby below; etc. Hunt casts even usually benign creatures in a shadowy light: the Black Dog of Ireland and Scotland had dreadful powers ("Those who heard its footfalls or gazed into its eyes were struck dumb with fear and soon withered away and died") and two species of unicorns, from Persian lore, include one "foul-tempered," the other "a vicious carnivore." Despite the title, there's little of the "illuminated" look to the illustrations; they're mostly dramatic pictures with numerous bared fangs and chilling, beady eyes. Of particular interest and appeal, a final spread uses Hunt's elegant decorated capitals as a striking border around an equally striking note positing theories about the roles served by mythical monsters. All ages.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Grade 4-8-This eye-catching picture book is for readers old enough to have acquired a sense of time past and who can appreciate the power that myth and legend can exert on the human imagination. It is, like Hunt's Illuminations (S & S, 1989), a reflection of the ideas and world view of the medieval centuries, a time when the Earth seemed full of mysterious beasts and travelers wrote tales of fantastic adventures. The author's extensive research into the history of bestiaries (as evidenced by his appended note and the lengthy bibliography) has yielded 26 brightly colored, action-filled illustrations of wondrous, and mostly fearsome, creatures. Familiar legendary beasts such as the griffin, phoenix, and sphinx share the pages with the ichneumon, ozaena, ziphius, and other curiosities. A pronunciation guide on the first page helps readers with the names, and a brief paragraph under each neatly framed picture explains the powers and peculiar habits of the storied creatures. A decorative map on the endpapers shows the known world of the Middle Ages and the location of each reported marvel. Fun to read because of the fabulous creatures and the accounts of their often-bizarre appetites and reported ferocity, this book offers an engaging pictorial supplement to studies of the Middle Ages or units on legends and myths.
Shirley Wilton, Ocean County College, Toms River, NJ
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 9 and up
  • Hardcover: 48 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing (October 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0689812469
  • ISBN-13: 978-0689812460
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 0.4 x 12.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,494,680 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 18, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I have taught at both the Middle and High School levels and found that Bestiary: An Illuminated Alphabet of Medieval Beasts and Illuminations both by Jonathan Hunt are a wonderful way to introduce the medieval period to young adults. These books are not just children's books. Bestiary: An Illuminated Alphabet of Medieval Beasts and Illuminations introduce the students to important vocabulary words and mythological creatures from this fascinating time period. This is a great way for students to relate to the period in a nonthreatening manner. These books allow me to make the Middle Ages fun. They are both filled with information as well as visually stimulating. The author takes each letter of the alphabet and associates it with something medieval in Illuminations and something mythological in Bestiary: An Illuminated Alphabet of Medieval Beast. The illustrations are breathtaking in both. You will learn something new with each reading. I highly recommend both books to young and old alike.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 4, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book is my five-year old son's favorite! The illustrations are striking and the short text descriptions trigger elaborate conversations. We discuss which of these medival beasts is the strongest, the meanest, the most difficult to capture. The author includes a table of pronouncations, which my son uses to correct me. We spend hours pouring over the map on the inside cover, locating different beasts and thinking about where they came from. My older son and his friends use the illustrations as guides for their own drawings, which now grace the walls of our house.
Its a rare book that can spark so many imaginations while teaching the alphabet, word origins, geography, and history. The Bestiary is just such a book!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By E. Shreeve on August 20, 2003
Format: Hardcover
My sons and I have been reading and rereading this book for four years, since they were 4 and 7 years old. At 8 and 11, it's still our favorite. Just the right amount of information, great illustrations, and a starting point for terrific imaginings!
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Format: Hardcover
Living in a world that they knew was much larger than their immediate surroundings and hearing tales of some of the amazing creatures known to exist, the people of medieval Europe let their imaginations create many fearsome creatures of myth. In the modern world, we tend to restrict this to dragons, yet there were many other creatures that found their way into the thoughts of European writers. A bestiary is a compilation of descriptions of these powerful beasts.
This book presents a collection of images and descriptions of 26 such beasts, there is one with a name beginning with each letter of the alphabet. It starts with the two-headed creature "Amphisbaena" and ends with the "Ziphius" or water-owl. All of the beasts are dangerous and to be feared, reflecting the general fear of the vast unknown prevalent in that time of human history.
The artwork is superb; the power of the creatures is evident in their structure and facial expressions. This book is an excellent description of some of the mythical creatures that humans once shrunk from in fright.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I purchased this book to use in our home school study of middle ages. We also have Jonathan Hunt's "Illuminations". Both books are absolutely wonderful. The illustrations are outstanding and both books provide lots of information about the medieval time period for the little ones (and myself) to learn. Illuminations goes through the alphabet with corresponding medieval topics (one letter per page). Bestiary tells about different medieval beasts (like griffins, dragons, etc.) I am so glad I found these books - highly recommended!
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Format: Hardcover
Pleasing to the eye and stimulating to the imagination, this book describes and depicts twenty-six "fabulous beasts" who were once the thing of everyday legend in times past. An excellent book to refer to time and again, and one children should love. Well-illustrated and nicely-written, this is a good work to add to the home library of anyone who loves the past, the landscapes of Medieval fantasy, or who simply appreciates colorful art.
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