“I captured them in oils or watercolous, appropriate to their nature.”
Father Noe’s Bestiary, by Jody Lynn Nye.
The amazing people at my local secondhand bookstore brought in a stack of about a dozen anthologies for me, which made me smile for far too long. Among them was the book containing today’s story: Creature Fantastic, edited by Denise Little. Within the pages are more than fifteen short stories from 2001, all containing some sort of fantastical creature, as the name suggests. It was impossible to hold in in my hands and not buy it. If you would like your own copy, there’s at least one on Amazon here, though I’d recommend you check your own local bookstore, first.
In Father Noe’s Bestiary, Father Noe is a priest who claims he is a very old wizard. Having moved into to a less than favourable part of town, he is loved by all in the neighbourhood for his peaceful demeanour and, of course, his paintings of rare and mythical creatures of all kinds. But there may be more than he’s willing to let on to the protagonist, a young girl named Kinsie that often visits him.
I want to be upfront and say that this story is a bit dated with some of its terms and language–but I don’t think it detracts from the telling at all. It simply sets the times. Actually, it’s rather descriptive without going over the top. The neighbourhood and Father Noe’s shop and home are wonderfully visual, yet reading it, I didn’t get bogged down in any unnecessary details.
The story itself was quite charming. A little predictable–okay, pretty predictable–but nonetheless, it was quaint. It reminded me of the kind of stories I used to enjoy as a kid when I was around Kinsie’s age. If I had read this when it had first come out, I would have been absolutely swept away by it. Reading it now, I don’t think my imagination gets so easily involved these days. Though I think that says something about my own life as an adult reader, rather than Nye’s writing.
I’m still a little torn on the ending, as well. It was cute, hopeful, idealistic. Pretty much everything was resolved, but still, something about it just feels off. I want to make it clear that I did enjoy it, it just felt a little too good, a little too pure. Again, however, maybe I’m just a bit more jaded than I realized in my adulthood.
Overall, I’m going to give this one a 4 out of 5. Even though I am a bitter old man in the brain, I’m an optimistic child at heart, and I really did get a little carried away reading this, as much as my pride doesn’t want me to admit it. I’d recommend this one if you like friendly old wizards that actually are nice, and I especially recommend it to anyone who’s fond of dragons and happy endings.
If there’s one thing you could preserve forever–or at least, for longer than your own lifetime–what would it be?