Numerous books have successfully built on a premise of human interaction with mythical creatures, but this one is overstuffed and convoluted.
When Logan and his father move to the small town of Xanadu, Wyo., he becomes involved in the search for six missing griffin cubs from the Menagerie. The action is as wild and wooly as a mammoth, with those prehistoric beasts, unicorns, mermaids and hellhounds and other creatures appearing around every corner. In the space of one day, Logan complains, “my clothes have been set on fire by a phoenix, drowned by a kelpie, rolled on by a mammoth, clawed and nibbled by griffin cubs, and drenched in kraken ink.” Can he help classmate Zoe and her family save the Menagerie from being shut down by SNAPA (SuperNatural Animal Protection Agency)? Driven by the plot, the characters lack depth; the creatures provide heft, but there are too many, too conveniently introduced. Pop-culture references—The Hunger Games, the Pirates of the Caribbean films, Wheel of Fortune—feel like pandering and will date the book. One clever touch is Logan’s ability to communicate with the opinionated griffin cubs. Book 2 will pick up from the last sentence of the abrupt ending: “Someone had murdered the goose who laid the golden eggs.”
Unfortunately, the story itself lays an egg. For a really magical book about mythical animals, readers should try The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, by Patricia McKillip (1974). (Fantasy. 9-12)