Beasts to Scare You

The nights are getting longer.

Dark falls much earlier these days; there are more shadows and more things hiding in corners, beneath, and behind. More beasts to scare you.

More creatures to catch you.

You can probably name a few of them but do you know what, exactly, lurks where you’re not expecting it? Read “M is for Monster” by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Gerald Kelley and find out… if you dare!

A is at the top of the alphabet, so maybe it’s right that we start at the top of the world where A is for Amarok. It’s a fierce wolf-like creature that’s almost as big as a man and that hides in the forest. The Inuit fear the Amarok – and you should, too.

“Almost every culture has its own favorite dragon,” says J. Patrick Lewis, so that’s what D stands for: dragons. Most of them breathe fire and they make excellent guards for your castle. Some are tamed, but there’s no word on housebreaking issues.

If you live in a big city, you might be familiar with Gargoyles, which is the G word here. Originally meant to help keep buildings safe from rainwater, there’s an interesting (and frightening) myth that goes along with them. No wonder the stone beasts are so scary!

Is it a bird? Is it a snake? It’s both, because Q is for Quetzalcoatl, a creature that appears to be many parts, including a bit of human. He’s huge and he’s terrifying, but he’s not such a bad guy underneath: the Aztecs thought he invented books and calendars and that he brought corn, so they worshipped him.

U is for unicorn, a creature that’s hardly a monster. Legend has it that the shy, gentle horse-with-a-horn can cleanse water and heal injuries, and it’s attracted by purity and innocence. In truth, however, the creatures have never been seen – although several kinds of animals could really fool you.

And then we end at the end with Z for zombies. Yes, the Undead are shocking – maybe because they’re portrayed as a sign of the end of the world!
Looking for a great book for sleepovers and campfires this fall? “M is for Monster” fits that fine, but beware of who you’re scaring…

You probably wouldn’t think, for example, that an alphabet book is for older kids but this one definitely is. Author J. Patrick Lewis offers a basic intro to twenty-six monsters from different cultures, while illustrator Gerald Kelley’s artwork enhances the narrative to lend an eerie feeling to each creature profile.

But there’s the beware: small, sensitive children may run, screaming, into a bedtime full of nightmares after they see what’s inside this book. The artwork is incredible but it works its magic entirely too well for little ones.

And so, while you may want to keep this out of 3-to-6-year-old hands, I think 7-to-12-year-olds (and some adults) will cherish this book for its info and its art. “M is for Monster” may be something they’ll want to read a little longer.