I think I’ve had a copy of Stephanie Brockway’s and Ralph Masiello’s The Mystic Phyles: Beasts (Charlesbridge, July 2011) for nearly four months now, but sometimes I’m just slow here at 7-Imp. Better late than never, right?
Also, better to post this around Halloween anyway. Mystical beasts. Mystery letters. Goblin spiders. Black cats of doom. Really evil bunyips. Strange fires in a creepy house. Cryptic necklaces that strengthen one against attacks. Weird things all-around. Yep, it’s fitting.
This is the story of Abigail Thaddeus, who lives with her eccentric grandmother and very controlling grandfather. Abigail can count her friends on one hand—okay, one finger—and her social life at her junior high school is really difficult, to say the least. But, after a black cat delivers her a note and a key, her life changes forever, launching her on a quest for … well, research. “What I’d like you to do is research,” an anonymous letter (“Your Devoted Friend,” it is signed) says. “You will start with mythical beasts….Find as much information as you can. Educate yourself. Investigate the mysteries, then discern for yourself the fact and fiction.”
The book is designed to look like a sort of scrapbook or journal of Abigail’s: Filled with drawings, journal entries, notes, confessions, details of her days at school and home, and her research, it is composed of original illustrations from Stephanie and Ralph, as well as re-printed photographs and illustrations (i.e., the 1936 photo in Popular Science of the bull made to look like a unicorn by Dr. W. F. Dove at the University of Maine). Young Abigail notes her research findings (pictured above is part of her research on Sea Monsters, including what you don’t see in that spread, “Species of Sea Monsters”), most followed by “My Incredibly Brilliant (But Not Very Scientific) Ideas” about what each creature could actually be: Sea Monsters, as reported by sailors over the years, could in fact have been giant squids, finally discovered in the mid-1850s. Or, my favorite, Bigfoot could in fact be a “worldwide hallucination…One person sees what they think is Bigfoot and runs home to the tell the story. The story spreads. Then other people claim to see it, either because they’re dying to see it, too, or they’re afraid of it, or it’s the first thing that pops into their heads when they spy something strange. Could this really happen on a worldwide scale?” Read the rest of this entry �