Wednesday, October 1, 2014

"Unnatural Selections"

by Wallace Edwards
ISBN No. 978-1-4598-0555-2

We're warned right upfront: "Readers of this book, behold! Beasts from an imagined age." Those beasts come from the imagination of Professor I.B. Doodling, a "traveling artist who visits schoolchildren and takes their create fantastical hybrid animals." The results are elegant illustrations and nonsensical poems about everything from the "Whalephant" ("Everyone who gets to see him, secretly would like to be him") to the "Leofroat" (a mashup of leopard, frog and goat).
The book encourages children to spot and identify the different animals in the pictures, but it's also an unwitting introduction to the environmental ills of our rapidly (de?)evolving planet. Being "a fantastical collection of unnatural selections!" also means the book might be an empowering or emasculating read for children with emerging gender issues. Whew... Thats a LOT of forehead crunching for a children's book. This isn't a bad thing if it gets parents and children talking about stuff like "natural" selection, the implications of GMO agriculture or - considering how fast kids grow up these days - the unnatural selections in books like Margaret Atwood's dystopian "Oryx and Crake" trilogy, where glowing rabbits - a failed experiment in bioluminescence - run freely in the countryside.