This collection of short stories, selected by Neil Gaiman and Maria Dahvana Headley, features stories by sixteen fantasy authors: E. Lily Yu, Diana Wynne Jones, Nnedi Okorafor, and Samuel R. Delany are just some of them. In his introduction, Gaiman states that, when he was a boy, he absolutely loved to go to the Museum of Natural History. What puzzled him, though, was an abscence of certain animals; he really wanted to know more about them. As you can imagine, he is referring to imaginary ones: dragons, mermaids, manticores, and the like. These unnatural creatures may not have a place in science books and museums, but they are still dear to all of us.
The story-collection has all kinds of creatures: gryphons, werewolves, unicorns, sunbirds, even a cockatoucan. It also features fiery dragons, talking trees, anarchist bees, and ancient goddesses. Some of the stories first appeared a long time ago (The Griffin and the Minor Canon by Frank Stockton, for instance, first appeared in 1885), and some are brand new (The smile on the face by Nalo Hopkinson, is a good example). It also shows a good mix of both female and male authors. If you like Gaiman’s work, you will definitely enjoy these.
The sixteen authors, including Gaiman himself, are fun, engaging, and sometimes terrifying. There are some reasons to consider that this book may appeal to older readers: the language is elaborate, there are some stories that feature teenage concerns (“necking” being one of them, and a drunken werewolf, another), but, in all, it will be of much interest to any fourteen-year-old with a passion for fantastic creatures and scenery.
The book supports the 826DC movement, a nonprofit organization that dedicates itself to literacy and education nationwide. Their gift shop a.k.a <The Museum of Unnatural History is a very geeky place to visit, and it has inspired the title and type of stories featured in the book. The illustrations, by Briony Morrow-Cribs, have a vintage feel that go very well with its contents.
Stories selected by Neil Gaiman with Maria Dahvana Headley
Hardcover, 462 pages
Published April 23rd 2013 by HarperCollins
Cover arts by Maurice Sendak, Photo courtesy Holt Library Edition