Hold onto your hat, Mr. Darwin, there are several new species in town – and their origins are curious. A fusion of tortoise and giraffe results in a Toraffe. Mix a whale with an elephant and you get a Whalephant. Each hybridized animal introduced by Professor I.B. Doodling in Unnatural Selections comes from the delightful recesses of Wallace Edwards’ imagination. The author-illustrator has produced yet another fantastical picture book guaranteed to ignite creative sparks in readers of all ages.
In just more than a decade, Edwards has amassed an impressive array of accolades for his work, including a 2002 Governor General’s Literary Award for Alphabeasts (Kids Can Press), and he regularly earns praise and critical acclaim for his quirkily beautiful and clever conceptions. Fans of the author’s previous work, especially 2005’s Mixed Beasts (text by Kenyon Cox), will not be disappointed with this latest effort, in which the stunning visuals are combined with creative storytelling to great effect.
What makes Unnatural Selections so magnificent is the attention to detail. Like celebrated Australian author-illustrator Graeme Base (Animalia), Edwards creates richly layered scenes bursting with multiple components. Beyond the mythical animals featured in the foreground, readers are encouraged by a reference section at the book’s end to go back and hunt for additional creatures hidden throughout. Hours can be spent poring over every inch of each page, unearthing elements previously unnoticed. In the peripheries live Snailagators, Dorses, Snirds, and even a Frogtopus. No doubt, many readers will delight in searching for these unusual hybrids, but Edwards’ greatest triumph is his ability to encourage us all to discover the strange and wonderful beasts that already dwell in our own imaginations.