Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Can you believe I've never actually read Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them? My sister had the old school covers (the ones that looked like the actual textbooks which I loved) of both this one and Quidditch Through the Ages but I never did get around to borrowing and reading them. I did, like every other Harry Potter fan, go see the film when it was released in theatres and I loved it. So, when I had the chance to review the brand new version of the book I jumped at the chance. Time to finally learn more about all those magical creatures I've been reading (and rereading) about for years!

Here's the description of the new edition:
A brand new edition of this essential companion to the Harry Potter stories, with a new foreword from J.K. Rowling and an irresistible new jacket by Jonny Duddle.
An approved textbook at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry since publication, Newt Scamander's masterpiece has entertained wizarding families through the generations. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is an indispensable introduction to the magical beasts of the wizarding world. Scamander's years of travel and research have created a tome of unparalleled importance. Some of the beasts will be familiar to readers of the Harry Potter books – the Hippogriff, the Basilisk, the Hungarian Horntail ... Others will surprise even the most ardent amateur magizoologist. Dip in to discover the curious habits of magical beasts across five continents ...

'No wizarding household is complete without a copy' Albus Dumbledore
Because I had never read the book before, I wasn't totally sure which creatures were part of the six new ones added to this latest edition. While reading it, though, I realized many of them are from stories J.K. Rowling had shared about Ilvermorny through Pottermore. I did a bit of poking around and found this article on Pottermore that lists all the new creatures accompanied with amazing and stunning 3D paper art by artist Andy Singleton. 

I had forgotten that the Thunderbird was a Ilvermorny house and a creature in Rowling's world. Having grown up with some (pretty basic) knowledge of Indigenous cultures, I was fairly certain Rowling's description didn't mesh with the mythology from real Indigenous cultures. A quick search confirmed my suspicions and reminded me of the many articles I read about how upset Indigenous people were when the Ilvermorny story was first released. (Read this CBC article for more context.) I love Rowling as much as the next Potter fan but this was a hard thing to come to terms with...a favourite author seemingly picking and choosing the myths that suited her and changing them to work with her story. This isn't just changing a, say, vampire narrative to suit your story. It's about taking a culture's religion for the purpose of another story. I don't like to be a downer but this is part of a much bigger conversation, especially in Canada, and I feel like I can't just ignore it.

Of course, all that being said...I did have fun reading this book. Creatures popped up that I remembered Harry and friends learning about at Hogwarts and it was great to learn more about where they can be found. It was so neat to really get a better imaginary picture (or sometimes actual picture as there were some line drawings throughout the book) of what these creatures should actually look like. 

I especially liked the introduction and explanation of why Centaurs and Merpeople are considered Beasts and Magical Creatures instead of Beings (like witches and wizards are). It would have been very complicated for those wizards to sort out how to classify certain creatures. I also liked the Ministry of Magic classification system. It ranges from XXXXX ("Known wizard killer/impossible to train or domesticate") to X ("Boring"). 

I love the look of the scales and the green and gold of the cover but I'm not sold on the dragon. I like that it's a red creature (the three colours all look so lovely) but this Chinese Fireball (I think that's what it is anyway) just looks too...cute, I think. Although the Puffskein on the back really is adorable and I want one. Except it enjoys sticking its long tongue up sleeping humans' noses and eating bogies so...that's a bit odd!

Have you read Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them? Do you have the older copies or the newer one like me? Which do you prefer? I'm happy to be adding "Newt Scamander's" title to my ever-growing Harry Potter collection!

*I received a copy of this book from Raincoast Books in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

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