I have always been a fan of encyclopedic books. Books that provide short digests of information that you can burn through quickly and gain enough information to sound interesting at a party, but not so much that you have to write things down and read a ton of footnotes. The book I featured in my last Book Haul, Vistas of Many Worlds, is one, and this week I got The Big Bad Book of Beasts: the worlds most curious creatures by Michael Largo.

My son and talk about it in the video below:

A modern bestiary

I saw this book first on Uncrate, a great blog full of things you want, things you wish you wanted and things only a crazy person would want. This was one of the rare Uncrate features that I both wanted and could easily purchase.

Loch Ness Monster: Big Bad Book of Beasts
Loch Ness Monster: Big Bad Book of Beasts

Here’s the description from the back of the book:

For hundreds of years, the most popular books in the Western world next to the Bible were “bestiaries,” fanciful encyclopedias collecting all of human knowledge and mythology about the animal kingdom. In these pages, eagles and elephants lived next to griffins and sea monsters. Now, in The Big, Bad Book of Beasts, award-winning author Michael Largo has updated the medieval bestsellers for the twenty-first century, illuminating little-known facts, astonishing secrets, and bizarre superstitions about the beasts that inhabit our world—and haunt our imaginations. You’ll learn about the biggest bug ever, the smallest animal in the world, and the real creatures that inspired the fabled unicorns. You’ll discover how birds learned to fly, why cats rub against your legs, and a thousand other facts that will make you look at nature in a wonderfully new way.

We read the first few entries in this modern bestiary last night at bed time. We read about Aardvarks, skipped Afanc: legendary lake monster (for obvious reasons), Ahouizoti: five-armed dog, Aja-Ekapad: lightning goat, Albatross, Ammonites and Andean Condor. So basically we replaced the regular 2 – 4 books completely with the Big Bad Beast Book. By the time I was done he was asleep and I was ready to flip through book a bit more.

Flying Fish in the Big Bad Book of Beasts
Flying Fish in the Big Bad Book of Beasts

 A bestiary, or Bestiarum vocabulum is a compendium of beasts. Originating in the Ancient world, bestiaries were made popular in the Middle Ages in illustrated volumes that described various animals, birds and even rocks. The natural history and illustration of each beast was usually accompanied by a moral lesson. This reflected the belief that the world itself was the Word of God, and that every living thing had its own special meaning. For example, the pelican, which was believed to tear open its breast to bring its young to life with its own blood, was a living representation of Jesus. The bestiary, then, is also a reference to the symbolic language of animals in Western Christian art and literature. –Wikipedia

If you and/or your kid are into animals, mythic or otherwise, and want to learn a few facts about a ton of animals, check this book out. I really love it so far. It’s something I’m sure we’ll enjoy reading cover to cover, then returning to again and again for years.

If you know of other books like this, please post a comment and let me know.


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