Review: ‘A Field Guide to Kentucky Kaiju’ by Justin Stewart, Tressina Bowling and Shawn Pryor

A Field Guide to Kentucky Kaiju by Justin Stewart, Tressina Bowling and Shawn Pryor
Apex Book Company (October 2016)
104 pages; $14.95 paperback
Reviewed by Anton Cancre

Any amateur naturalist worth their salt knows that Kentucky is one of the finest states in this dear union. Those great, sprawling acres of wilderness call to us, filled as they are with some of the more interesting species of both man and beast. Given this, it really is surprising it took this long for someone to put together a loose guide to the more unusual of its native fauna.

The information Shawn Pryor provides in this modest guide is not the most robust, true. The basic height, weight and city of origin are provided for all its entries. The rest appears largely apocryphal, yarns falling from toothless octogenarians rocking in sketchy chairs on even sketchier porches, but therein lies much of the charm.

Besides, how many of us need to know more than to sing “America, the Beautiful” when you see that gorgeous three-headed eagle dripping rocket pop from its beak, or to run like hell if Puffs comes lumbering out of Louisville? Hunters, perhaps, but only a fool would aim to take down the Iron Pig with their trusty double barrel. Besides, I was pleasantly surprised to find out how popular the poetry of Langston Hughes is among this region’s kaiju.

Some may find fault with the choice of hand-drawn illustrations over pictures and I will grant the sense of immediacy the pictorial engenders. However, given the inclusion of several extinct species, necessary for the preservation of the natural history of the state, pictures wouldn’t be possible for every entry.

Besides, there is an element of manic joy and exigent vitality to the work Justin Stewart and Tressina Bowling scratch and scrape onto the page. The most valid complaint true naturalists would and should hold over this book is the allowance given to those abominations brewed in the vats of laboratories, as if they bear a third of the grandeur of those birthed from the screeching womb of our dear mother earth.

All told, A Field Guide to Kentucky Kaiju makes for a handy and fun starting point for those looking to move on from taking nudes of themselves next to the signs for Big Bone Lick.

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