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BESTIARY by Jonathan Hunt


An Illuminated Alphabet of Medieval Beasts

by Jonathan Hunt & illustrated by Jonathan Hunt

Age Range: 5 - 9

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-689-81246-9
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

In this companion to Hunt’s Illuminations, fearful horrors mix with benevolent beasts, populating an alphabet book that should provide many hours of discovery. Hunt explains how fantastic animals were combined with actual ones in bestiaries, and why; he gives reasonable explanations for the curious inventions of these imaginary creations. After a map of the medieval world, every entry in the alphabet is given a page or a spread, as in the case of the “most feared” creature of the ocean depths, the Kraken. Among the beasts are the firedrake, the basilisk, the nycticorax, and an intriguing unicorn—far different from the glowing white steed-like creature of most lore. Hunt’s tone is steady and somber, whether the information is horrible, whimsical, or medicinal in nature (e.g., “a griffin’s feather could cure blindness”). The details are entertaining, scary, and marvelous. A long author’s note attests to Hunt’s enthusiasm, and a bibliography underscores his scholarship, but readers will be delighted most by his two renderings of the not-so- mythical beast known as an artist, shown once in medieval garb and working with quills, and once in blue jeans, perched on an articulated office chair. (Picture book. 5-9)