March 18, 2018

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Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods by Hal Johnson and Tom Mead | SLJ Review

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FearsomeJOHNSON, Hal. Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods: 20 Chilling Tales from the Wilderness. illus. by Tom Mead. 176p. Workman. Aug. 2015. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9780761184614.
Gr 5-7–Look out for what’s lurking around every corner. The book is told from the perspective of a cryptozoologist who focuses on the lumberwoods of North America and who recounts many painful and horrifying incidents he witnessed during his years of seeking the most bizarre creatures. He begins with the very dangerous hodag, a rhinoceros critter with a bull horn and a spiny back. Things don’t go well when traveling shysters set up a tent claiming to have captured the fierce hodag. Instead, they regale paying customers with sinister hodag tales and play a recorded hodag sound. Eventually, the real thing ruins their scheme with disastrous consequences. Tales of other creatures, such as the leprocaun, not only deliver vile results but also eerily tickle the funny bone. Another creature featured here is the cactus cat, related to beavers because he was once cornered by a wolverine and forced to run up a tree for safety. Also referred to as a wampus cat, he now has a spiked ball at the end of his tail, which he uses to slash unsuspecting victims who don’t realize they are riddled with holes until they eat a meal and it pours out of multiple openings in their bellies. These tales demand to be savored in all their weirdness and gore. The tongue-in-cheek humor will keep readers engaged. Touted as examples of beasts from American folklore, each feral varmint is elaborately illustrated in black and white. The book concludes with a quick go-to guide of fearsome facts to aid in identifying any of these creatures that readers may meet in the wild. A captivating collection for fans of Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, this is also ideal for those looking for something fresh, creative, and deliciously creepy. VERDICT Outstanding faux-lore creature tales that will blow away middle school readers.–Julie Shatterly, W. A. Bess Elementary School, Gastonia, NC

This review was published in School Library Journal‘s August 2015 issue.