As far as A-Zs go, this one is the most fun I’ve ever looked at (yes, I admit, I was born before the invention of the mobile phone). It’s a lot easier on the eye and more pleasurable to navigate than the map sort, to say the least – but arguably no less informative. Ever heard of the African tree-dwelling dwarf Eloko? The entries feature legendary creatures from all over the world and, pleasingly, F is for Far Darrig rather than the predictable Fairy, and U is for Ushi-oni, a Japanese sea monster, not Unicorn (hurray, I say, as the mother of a girl, a book without a unicorn!).
This is a beautifully produced hardback with bright, imaginative pictures that each take up a double-page spread. It’s part of an ongoing collaboration between London publisher Laurence King and hip design shop Magma, so I had a good feeling about it from the start. My five-year-old loved it too, especially as she’d just learnt about the Loch Ness Monster at school – that said, I read her a mildly edited version, to save on potential nightmares. Though the text is humorous rather than scary, some of the more ghoulish facts (vampires suck your blood, ogres feast on children etc) are probably best suited to slightly older kids, as is the mature vocabulary.
Now my daughter knows about so many interesting monsters, I hope she doesn’t request we make a Questing Beast (head of a snake, body of a leopard, haunches of a lion) costume for Halloween.
An A to Z of Monsters and Magical Beings by Rob Hodgson and Aidan Onn (Laurence King, £13) Available to buy here
Melissa Crowther is editor of The Clerkenwell Post, a mum of one and a stepmum of three.