Animals That Might Exist by Professor O’Logist, by Stéphane Nicolet, illustrated by Jean-Baptiste Drouot, translated by Mireille Messier. Milky Way Picture Books, c2020, 2021. 9781990252051
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 2
What did you like about the book? The concept here is that Professor O’Logist has disappeared, leaving behind only his battered journal, a bestiary of fantastic creatures. From this, the authors have managed to piece together lovely, detailed pen-and-ink sketches (enhanced with watercolor) of some very strange animals and print and distribute 78 copies of the book worldwide. There’s the Flaminghound, a cross between a flamingo and a greyhound, the Silverback Achoolug, a saliva-covered slug that may be immortal, and the Pottos-tattos, a member of the lemur family that can fry potatoes with its mind, among others. Organization chapters include the Soft Animals, the Not-friendly Animals, the Off-Key Animals, the Shifty Animals, and so on. Each creature’s description covers two pages and includes (in addition to the interesting and delicate drawing) lots of labels, a map, a list of distinguishing features, a short, nonsensical essay, and a droll cartoon. There seemed to me to be a strong debt owed here to the inimitable Edward Gorey’s The Utter Zoo: An Alphabet, but with soft pastel hues replacing inky pronounced black crosshatching. The book originally appeared in French.
Anything you didn’t like about it? I found the language and the concept to be totally at odds with one another. Although 2nd and 3rd graders are fond of gross-out humor and may enjoy learning about the disgusting Cucumbersome, the vocabulary would be far above their reading level and I, for one, would not relish reading aloud the passage about their consumption of “dead skin…and filth of all sorts.” Even more problematic are the sketches of “local people”, shown in grass skirts, wearing human heads on thongs around their necks, or a brown-skinned “primitive” woman with a bone in her hair. Just, no.
To whom would you recommend this book? It may be of interest to adults for its illustrations and tongue-in-cheek humor. I would not recommend it for a children’s collection.
Who should buy this book? Not for library purchase
Where would you shelve it? 843.6
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA
Date of review: April 3, 2022