Willoughby’s World of Wonder is a fictional reproduction of the famous 1882 Field Guide to Strange Beasts & Curious Creatures. For half a century, this unique reference guide was used as a textbook in many universities around the globe, and was considered a primary reference of many cryptozoological societies and organizations. Years of painstaking research and expert restoration have yielded the amazing rebirth of this treasured book. Every single page of Willoughby’s is lavishly illustrated, with 136 Strange Beasts and Curious Creatures. Each creature is listed with an illustration and complete description. Included are many traditional beasts and folk, such as Pixies, Fearies, Sprites, Unicorns, and Gargoyles; but most of these beasties are completely new and unexpected. This is not your usual bestiary, filled with the tired old, familiar creatures. Willoughby’s contains a host of strange folk and odd creatures the likes of which you have never seen before!
Discover the tiny Beelephants and Air Horses; marvel at the mighty Leocornus; learn about the Storytelling Dragons; befriend the wily Spriggans and Pigwidgeons; search for the treasure-filled burrow of the Magpie Dragon; beware the Jinx and the Bogeyman! All these amazing beasties and more are sorted into nine categories: Fey Folk; Wee Folk; Great Folk; Wyre Folk; Creatures Amongst Us; Creatures of the Land, Sea, and Air; and Creatures of the Night.
This is Stephen Barnwell’s seventh book, and it is overflowing with whimsy and delight. All 182 pages of Willoughby’s are filled with beautiful, black-and-white Victorian engravings printed on fine white paper. Barnwell has won several awards for his books, and his first, Capital Offenses, was named one of the Best Books of 2014 by Publisher’s Weekly. Suitable for adults and young adults, Willoughby’s World of Wonder will enthrall readers of all ages.
This illustrated fictional reproduction of a Victorian field guide helps identify imaginary and legendary creatures.
According to the Introduction, said to be written by Angus Willoughby, “CRYPTOZOOLOGIST AND NATURALIST,” this volume contains truthful accounts “of the strange and unusual in the world of nature” so that readers may be best prepared to encounter, propitiate, or avoid them. The beings are grouped into four kinds of Folk (Fey, Wee, Great, and Wyre) and five types of Creature: those that live with people and those of the land, sea, air, and night. Each entry includes an illustration with size, habitat, and description. A Banshee, for example, is 4 to 6 feet tall; its habitat is “Houses; Dark and stormy nights”; and it “appears to those who are to suffer the death of a family member.” Many entries include helpful information: “Upon finding a Land Kraken in your barn or stable, it is recommended that you drive it out as quickly as possible.” While some beings are familiar from folklore (such as Elf, Sasquatch, and Goblin), others are humorous inventions (Thinking Cap, Newsie, and Jackalope). An appendix provides an alphabetical index plus Folk calendars, a bibliography, and an advertising section (for example, “Dr. Pythagoras’ Patented Pixilation Cure”). Barnwell (Oneirognosis, 2015, etc.) is a professional artist, printmaker, and illustrator whose work has been exhibited internationally. The book’s images are perhaps the stars of this show—a brilliantly successful pastiche of Victorian engravings in their exquisite detail, subtle tonal and shading techniques such as hatching and crosshatching, and moodiness (romantic, whimsical, solemn, or eerie as suitable to the Creature or Folk described). The Victorian style offers some especially amusing images; Cyclops, for example, is a prosperous-looking, bearded gentleman with a better claim to his monocle than most. But the text, which describes absurdities in all Victorian seriousness, has a delightfully wry undertone and sometimes veers from the expected. Cyclopes, for example, “are cultured and civilized….Sadly, to date, elected office has eluded them.”
A fanciful guide to nature’s wonders; beautiful, clever, and appealing in every way—a fine achievement.