Sketchy infodumps and plotting leave fancy packaging to carry the load in this elaborately decorated journal.
Impelled by a request delivered by a cat, 13-year-old orphan Abigail compiles information on 15 probably mythical beasts, from mermaids and sea monsters to bunyips, barguests and Bigfoot. Meanwhile she also records incidents in a largely unhappy life—cloistered at home by a tyrannical grandfather and afflicted at her small-town school by bullies and cliques alike. Framed as a diary that fills every square inch including the endpapers, her narrative is presented on swatches of paper interspersed with a mix of dramatic full-page creature portraits, smaller images of old prints and supplementary drawings. These last are in a more informal style, and all are neatly applied over backgrounds pre-brushed with rich colors. Her “reports” run to only a few short comments or quotes (capped at the end by a stale booklist and a more helpful set of websites). Her personal miseries are abruptly resolved by a miraculous pendant and the revelation—quickly laid out at the end and reading more like a draft scenario—that the mythical creatures are real and there’s a struggle going on between those who would hide them and others who want them exposed.