From School Library Journal
Grade 4 Up—Baynes introduces readers to the creatures and myths found in medieval bestiaries and explains how the books were made and how they were viewed by the general public. The rest of the volume details the commonly held beliefs that both peasants and scholars embraced about specific animals, from well-known fantastical creatures like the manticore and the unicorn to little-known beasts such as the yale and the bonnacon. Even real creatures were given mythical qualities: it was believed that the lion's young were born dead and licked to life by the father three days after birth, while the panther was known for breath so sweet it would summon animals to its side with its belch. Baynes's detailed gouache and colored-pencil illustrations, one full-color page per creature, are done in the style of medieval illuminations and highlight the strangest qualities these animals were believed to have. The artist shows great respect for the early bestiary creators while also giving the stories relevance for modern readers, offering real-life possibilities for why people believed the animals had supernatural properties. Though the subject material has limited appeal, this book will be a coveted resource for mythology buffs who loved Ernest Drake's Dragonology
(Candlewick, 2003) and students interested in medieval Christianity.—Alana Abbott, James Blackstone Memorial Library, Branford, CT
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Baynes, best known as the illustrator of C. S. Lewis' Narnia books, was inspired by early bestiaries to create one of her own. A two-page introduction describes these illustrated guides, presenting beasts known or believed to exist in medieval times. The next 20 spreads picture the animals on full-page illustrations with facing pages relating what was known or rumored of the beasts. For instance, lions were thought to sleep with their eyes open, to cover their tracks by sweeping the ground with their tails, and to give birth to stillborn cubs that would later be "licked into life" by their fathers. Other beasts described include camels, gryphons, satyrs, and the phoenix. Baynes captures the worldview of medieval illuminists in handsome illustrations reflecting her distinctive expressions of form and movement. Eye-catching and engaging, this volume offers insight into medieval thought, bestiaries, heraldic beasts, and the perils of unreliable information. As Baynes says, "Believe what you like, but don't believe everything
you read without questioning it!" Carolyn PhelanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved