Inspiring Young Readers

posted on 23 Jul 2020

An A to Z of Monsters and Magical Beings by Rob Hodgson & Aidan Onn

I defy you to find me a child who isn’t absolutely enthralled by the idea of monsters. Actually, I’ll extend that challenge still further – find me anyone, child or adult, who isn’t enthralled by the idea of monsters and other imaginary beings. Whether it’s in books, films, television, art or photography, we find ourselves drawn to manifestations of the supernatural and the monstrous, peeping at their fearsome shape through the cracks between our fingers or from over the back of the settee. When it comes to monsters, we just can’t get enough of them.

Artist and illustrator, Rob Hodgson and writer, Aidan Onn have put together an entertaining A to Z digest of some of the most popular of the monsters and imaginary beings that are often to be found in children’s books. Starting with A for Alien and ending with Z for Zombie, each entry in the alphabetised collection has its own, usually humorous entry and an extravagant, colourful illustration to accompany it.

What is especially nice here is that the text isn’t just something to build the illustration around – often we’re given some useful information as well as entertained. Take the Cyclops for example:

“Stubborn and foul tempered, Cyclops are an ancient race of one-eyed giants. They are excellent blacksmiths, and the rumbling from inside a volcano is said to be the sound of them hard at work fashioning thunderbolts, which they throw at you if they catch you staring.”

So we get monsters and imaginary beings from near and far, international as well as those we think of as ‘domestic’ or indigenous to the British Isles. The alphabet also covers old and modern, from the Classical World to Hollywood, from literature and from popular culture.

There will, I guarantee, be monstrous beings here that you will never have heard of and which are a new addition to your nightmares. I’d never before come across the Far Darrig:

“These rascally fairies with long hair, short snouts and skinny tails are known in Irish folklore as ‘Red Men’ because of their fondness for bright red coats and capes.”

But I’ve also learned that not all ‘monsters’ are necessarily the bad guys. Take Eloko for example, they spend their time ‘protecting the animals and plants of the African rainforest’  and if you incur their wrath, it’s probably because you’re the monster!

All the monsters you might expect to find are here of course – none of the classics like Nessie, Ogres, Imps or Trolls are omitted and more cinematic horrors like vampires and werewolves also get their time in the spotlight.

I had great fun learning my monstrous A-Z and I’m pretty certain plenty of younger children will enjoy this – even if it does send a bit of a shudder down their backs.

The book comes from Laurence King Publishing and, if your local independent bookshop doesn’t have it in stock, they should be able to order you a copy easily enough.


Terry Potter

July 2020