A Literary Bestiary Words and Illustrations by Tasha J Miller



a literary bestiary

Don’t you love discovering great books for kids in unlikely places? Last week, whilst on holidays in Hepburn, Victoria, my family and I visited a beautiful homewares/clothes store called Portal 108. The woman behind the counter immediately struck up a conversation with my 8 year old daughter, due to the fact that Nina had walked into the shop, with her head buried in a book.

“Do you like reading?” the woman asked.

“Oh, I absolutely LOVE reading,” my daughter replied.

Anyway, the two got talking and the woman (Connie) told Nina about her friend Tasha, who has written a book about famous authors, only the authors have been transformed into animals – Edgar Allan Crow, William Shakesteer etc.

The two chatted away and when we had to leave, Connie asked us to pop back in before we left town. We went back two days later and Connie presented Nina with a copy of the book ‘A Literary Bestiary’ which the author had inscribed for Nina. She also gave her a brilliant ‘Book Nerd’ badge! Nina was beyond thrilled and we were pretty chuffed at the kindness and generosity, not to mention the awesome encouragement of reading.

So, long story short (too late) that book is this week’s review.


Tasha Miller has written this book as a way of honouring some of her favourite authors and poets. She came up with the idea to reinvent them as animals, when she was, one winter’s afternoon, staring broodily at the face of Louisa May Alcott. Tasha realised this particular favourite of hers actually bore some resemblance to a big brown owl, and so the idea was born.

Each double page has information about the author (all with an animal-twist) and a vibrant, fun illustration to match. The information is (mostly) accurate (animal-twist lines aside) and provides a light-hearted, easily accessible introduction to some of the world’s most famous authors, playwrights and poets.

Why I love it:

Firstly, I love the unique concept and the fun way in which it is executed. I love that, because of this book, my daughter is reading biographies of authors! She is questioning and engaging with the text and drawing connections between the characters in the book and books she has previously encountered.

I am also a complete sucker for a quote and each page is finished with a quote from that particular author. Considering the original motivation for the book, and for gifting a copy to my daughter, I am particularly fond of the Louisa May Alcott (or Louisa May Owlcott, as she is here) quote:

“She is too fond of books and it has turned her brain.”

Themes/ideas to discuss with your child:

  • Authors
  • Famous texts
  • Creativity and imagination
  • Puns
  • Biographies
  • Quotes
  • Fact and fiction
  • Turning ideas to reality

Questions to ask your child:

Before reading:
  • What do you think this book might be about?
  • Do you think this is a fiction book (a story) or a non-fiction book (facts)?
  • Is this a book you want to read? Why/why not?
  • What kind of animal is pictured on the cover?
  • What is the badge the animal is wearing?
  • Why do you think he is wearing this?
  • Do you know what the words in the title mean? What does ‘Literary’ mean? What is a ‘bestiary’?
  • From looking at both the front and back covers, what do you think you are going to find inside the book?
After reading:
  • Did you enjoy this book? Why/why not?
  • What was your favourite page? Why?
  • What has the author, Tasha J. Miller, done with the names on each page? Why do you think she did this?
  • Did you recognise any of the authors written about? If so, who?
  • Each page is finished with a quote from the author; what is a quote?
  • At the very end of the book, the author has created a page for herself; what animal did she become?
  • If you were a page in the book, what would your name be?

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