Book Review: Here There Be Monsters

by thiszine

HERE THERE BE MONSTERS:
THE LEGENDARY KRAKEN AND THE GIANT SQUID
by HP Newquist

Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
(August 2010, $18, 80 pages)

If you were entertained by the kraken in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, and engaged by the huge find in Discovery Channel’s Colossal Squid special, you are sure to be interested in Here There Be Monsters: The Legendary Kraken and the Giant Squid. Author HP Newquist takes the reader on a journey from the legendary monster that preys on unsuspecting sea vessels to the discoveries of the giant squid and, most recently, the colossal squid.

In the prologue, Newquist depicts a personal encounter with the mythological beast and continues on to describe the various tales of sea serpents from around the world. Newquist explains why cartographers marked the unexplored regions of their maps with the ominous warning, “Here Be Dragons,” or similar phrases. The author also describes the reasons most stories about the strange beasts were dismissed as the ramblings of men too long at sea.

As Newquist guides the reader through the history of these myths, he progresses from sailors’ accounts of demonic creatures attacking ships to the first attempts by scientists to officially name and classify the enormous organisms. Many naturalists believed that the source of the legend was based on oversized specimens found washed up on beaches. Scientists were determined to find evidence that there was such a thing as the giant squid. Eventually, researchers came to suspect that there was another, larger species of squid – deadlier than the giant squid.

In addition to the stories and scientific research, Newquist includes illustrations and photographs of everything that is discussed in the book, including still pictures of live giant squid, and the recovered body of a colossal squid featured on the Discovery Channel. There is also a bibliography and links listed for further information at the end of the book. Lastly, the author poses the question, “Could there be bigger ones that we have yet to discover?”

~Ursula K. Raphael

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