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The Big, Bad Book of Beasts: The World's Most Curious Creatures

Overview

The world's wildest collection of animal knowledge and lore!

Lions, and tigers, and bears . . . and dinosaurs, dragons, and monsters. Oh my!

For hundreds of years, the most popular books in the Western world next to the Bible were "bestiaries," fanciful encyclopedias collecting all of human knowledge and mythology about the animal kingdom. In these pages, eagles and elephants lived next to griffins and sea monsters. Now, in The Big, Bad Book of...

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The Big, Bad Book of Beasts: The World's Most Curious Creatures

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Overview

The world's wildest collection of animal knowledge and lore!

Lions, and tigers, and bears . . . and dinosaurs, dragons, and monsters. Oh my!

For hundreds of years, the most popular books in the Western world next to the Bible were "bestiaries," fanciful encyclopedias collecting all of human knowledge and mythology about the animal kingdom. In these pages, eagles and elephants lived next to griffins and sea monsters. Now, in The Big, Bad Book of Beasts, award-winning author Michael Largo has updated the medieval bestsellers for the twenty-first century, illuminating little-known facts, astonishing secrets, and bizarre superstitions about the beasts that inhabit our world—and haunt our imaginations. You'll learn about the biggest bug ever, the smallest animal in the world, and the real creatures that inspired the fabled unicorns. You'll discover how birds learned to fly, why cats rub against your legs, and a thousand other facts that will make you look at nature in a wonderfully new way.

Did you know?

The fastest animal in the world is the peregrine falcon, which reaches speeds of over 200 miles per hours.

Circus ringmaster P.T. Barnum fooled many when he displayed a "mermaid" carcass that was later proved to be monkey bones sewed together with the body of a fish.

Discovered in a remote volcanic crater in New Guinea, the Bosavi wolly rat grows to the size of a cat.

President Andrew Jackson bought an African gray parrot to keep his wife company. The bird outlived them both and was removed from Jackson's funeral for cussing in both English and Spanish.

A to Z: From Aardvark to Zooplankton!

For all ages!

Includes 289 illustrations!

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Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post - James Norton
…Largo wanders all over the map, including living animals both rare and common, microscopic creatures…mythological creatures, extinct animals and local folk tales…anyone who wades into the ocean that is The Big, Bad Book of Beasts with an open mind and a functional sense of skepticism is likely to emerge with insight into the glory of the natural world. At his best, Largo approaches seemingly prosaic beasts (cats, dogs, horses) and delivers anecdotes and observations that let readers see the familiar in a new light.
Publishers Weekly
Like the medieval bestiaries that Largo (Final Exits: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of How We Die) emulates, this book doesn’t limit itself to familiar or even real animals: nestled between aardvarks and zooplankton, you’ll find long-extinct creatures like the jaekelopterus—an ancestor to the scorpion that grew to be eight feet tall—and completely fictional beasts like the half-dog, half-reptile chupacabra. Averaging between two and three pages each, the entries are written in an informal tone and peppered with illustrations and trivia (hamsters, for instance, were once banned from Vietnam, giving rise to an “underground hamster culture”). Reading the book feels like an evening’s jaunt through a particularly engaging version of Wikipedia. Sometimes, though, Largo is able to capture a more elusive and even more enjoyable sensation: that of being a child on that first trip to the zoo—or natural history museum, or the dinosaur section of the library—who isn’t interested in medieval lessons about “daring and sloth, loyalty and cowardice,” nor contemplations on “what makes us essentially human and at the same time so similar to animals.” No, the much simpler thought process that this book should be proud to elicit is just one joyful word: cool! B&w illus throughout. Agent: Frank Weinmann, the Literary Group International. (Apr.)
Examiner.com
“A fascinating journey. ... If you like animals and odd stories and gooey oddities then this one is for you.”
Miami New Times
“An expert guide. ... Delves into truth and lore about our furry friends.”
CRNCHY Magazine
“Wild. ... You will find yourself drawn back... time after time”
Kirkus Reviews
In the great tradition of the bestiaries of yore, Allied Artists researcher/archivist Largo (Genius and Heroin: The Illustrated Catalogue of Creativity, Obsession, and Reckless Abandon Through the Ages, 2008, etc.) parades the real, the extinct and the imagined for our shivers and delectation. The author delivers plenty of the usual suspects--griffins, harpies, basilisks, trolls, manticores, the phoenix, mermaids, etc.--as well as fun parvenues--e.g., the Ahuizoti, which was chronicled by Columbus and supposedly had "five hands, with one growing from the end of its tail." Other interesting entries: the bonnacon, a flatulent European buffalo, which, when frightened, "released a thunderous fart…a sulfur-smelling gas that became flammable and scorched a wide path as far as 100 yards from the beast's rear end"); the albatross, which can fly for 10 years (true); the Goliath bird-eating spiders, which are as big as personal-pizza platters and actually devour birds; the Mongolian death worm, which "can discharge a harsh yellowish spit that is highly acidic, capable of melting metals and said to be instantaneously lethal to humans"; and the always-fascinating Komodo dragon, whose mouth "is literally a cesspool of biotoxins, containing more than fifty poisonous bacterium, including the deadly staph." And more: The shock of an electric eel runs to 600 volts, the lantern shark glows in the dark, and the leafy sea dragon looks remarkably like a piece of seaweed. Archival and some contemporary artwork accompanies the entries, most suitably cringe-inducing. However, Largo doesn't dig very deep here and makes little effort to explain, say, why the bear possesses mysterious significance to so many people or the beaver totemic value. Much remains in shadow, and some readers will wish for more background. Broad rather than deep, but still an entertaining and occasionally enlightening read--perfect for the coffee table or bathroom.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062087454
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/16/2013
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 464
  • Sales rank: 304,995
  • Product dimensions: 6.70 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Largo is the author of The Big, Bad Book of Beasts; God's Lunatics; Genius and Heroin; and the Bram Stoker Award-winning Final Exits: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of How We Die, as well as three novels. He and his family live in Florida with their dog, two turtles, a parrot, two canaries, and a tank of fish.

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