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Mixed Beasts

by Kenyon Cox; Wallace Edwards, illus.

Zoologist Julius Duckworth O’Hare presents, in this delicious volume, an illustrated field guide to some of the most bizarre creatures on the globe. Here we meet fantastic beasts such as the Octopussycat, whose tentacles can accommodate cups of tea and violins at the same time; the noisy Kangarooster, whose crowing wakes even carved gargoyles; the adorable Scallopossum who hangs her babies up to dry by their tails; and the scrumptious-looking Creampuffin. Each creature has its own poem describing its characteristics and foibles. The book is, of course, fictional, and so is Prof. O’Hare – half duck and half hare – who’s wrapped in the trappings of 19th-century scientific inquiry.

This is an extremely clever book. Illustrator Wallace Edwards takes his inspiration directly from the original 1904 edition of Mixed Beasts, written and illustrated by American painter Kenyon Cox, whose verses and original drawings appear on the left-hand pages here. Facing them are Edwards’ wacky full-colour interpretations of these creatures and their eccentricities. These pictures are packed with humorous details that take off from Cox’s verses and feature additional oddities, including the fowl ball (a baseball with the head and legs of a chicken) and the double-headed “cockatwo.” A helpful illustrated appendix for “fellow zoologists‚” is included at the end. It is a pity, however, that the book lacks a glossary for the few rare words in Cox’s verses that many young readers (and some parents!) are unlikely to understand. Nevertheless, Edwards’ rich, intriguing illustrations will certainly delight many sharp eyes, both young and old.