chupacabraIf you’re looking for more books to hand out to fans of unexplained phenomena and cryptids, this set of graphic novels from Capstone is the answer to all your creepy creature needs.

Each book features a different creature: ghosts, aliens, chupacabra, and Bigfoot. They all have generally the same format, starting with a table of contents and a disclaimer that all the accounts are from eyewitnesses and can’t be proved or disproved. Each chapter is a different eyewitness account of an encounter with the featured creature. Every account is framed by a brief introduction explaining the history and background of the topic, two to four pages of graphic panels, and a summation which encourages the reader to decide whether or not the story is true. Each book also contains a glossary, index, additional reading, and a link to the publisher’s website for more information.

Encountering Chupacabra and Other Cryptids begins with its two pages of introduction explaining some of the history of these strange creatures for those not familiar with their stories. The stories include several encounters with different types of chupacabras, a yeti, the mokele-mbembe (an African dinosaur-like creature), the Jersey Devil, the Loch Ness Monster, and Mothman. I thought this collection of stories was the most balanced, giving both for and against evidence in the “you decide” section at the end and displaying a healthy dose of skepticism.

Encountering Aliens includes a number of UFO sightings, alien encounters, and abduction stories from 1955 to 2006. Of course, there’s not a lot of space for information in only a few pages of artwork, but the stories seemed vague and incomplete. Many of the people in the stories sounded less than credible and their stories were rather thin. Although that might just be my lack of experience with alien encounter stories.

Encountering Ghosts was naturally the spookiest of the four books with stories ranging from the familiar, like the Amityville Horror house, to more obscure stories, like an encounter with a duppy, a kind of poltergeist, in Jamaica in 2013. There’s a story of a cemetery where the headstones move, a doll that seems to be alive, and a haunted theater. The arguments in the “you decide” section seem to mainly be of the “well, nobody can prove it isn’t true…” variety, with no real “evidence” for or against other than people’s personal stories.

Encountering Bigfoot, like the stories of the Other Cryptids, offers the most scientific evidence for and against. Some of the stories are simply accounts of people camping who saw strange things, others are from experienced campers and hunters. One thing that personally fascinated me in reading these stories was the immediate reaction of terror from the majority of people. Even when the Bigfoot in the story is not aggressive or even appears to be interested, the people flee immediately. The stories contain all the familiar elements—a creature that doesn’t seem to be similar to a bear or other large animal, a horrible smell, an ape-like face, etc.

Although different artists were responsible for each of these titles, there is a stylistic similarity. The art is dark and shadowed with lots of dramatic light flashes, flames, and looks of shock and horror on the faces. Chupacabra has the creepiest pictures, with hairless animals, weird shapes, and lots of sharp teeth! The layout seems to have gone a little wrong in this one, as it’s the only title with the main introduction before, rather than after, the table of contents. Ghosts is a more quiet horror, with lots of black or blank backgrounds and people seem to move more slowly. The scary pictures are small and eerie—red eyes shining in a window, a staring doll, and the occasional sudden eruption of a spectral figure. Aliens had the most evocative historical background, with art that captured the feel of the different time periods complete with details in cars, clothes, and houses as well as the different aliens described by people in their encounters. Bigfoot features the most people and the art was the least believable of the four to me. The Bigfoot creatures all look very similar and the people are oddly young. The two men in “Terror in the Night” look about 14 and the people’s faces in general were static and slightly distorted.

Kids are fascinated by the strange, creepy, and unexplained and these four books are a great way for them to explore those interests further. Although the artwork isn’t stellar in all of them and some of the pros and cons of the “you decide” sections are a little shaky, they’re not short on high-interest and excitement. Parents and teachers reluctant to let kids read this type of material will be pleased by the encouragement to think critically and kids will enjoy speculating on whether or not the encounters really happened. Some of the pictures are gruesome, and naturally these are not the titles to give to patrons who don’t want their kids encountering any kind of supernatural material, but they’ll fly off the shelves for the average 4th-6th grade reader.

Eyewitness to the Unexplained: Encountering Bigfoot
by Katherine Krohn
illustrated by Michael Byers
ISBN: 9781491402436

Eyewitness to the Unexplained: Encountering Aliens
by Chris Kincade
illustrated by Cristian Mallea
ISBN: 9781491402443

Eyewitness to the Unexplained: Encounter Ghosts
by Mari Bolte
illustrated by Kako
ISBN: 9781491402450

Eyewitness to the Unexplained: Encountering Chupacabra
by Megan Cooley Peterson
illustrated by Matt Stevens
ISBN: 9781491402429

Capstone, 2015
Publisher Age Rating: Grade 3-9

  • Jennifer

    | She/Her Youth Services Librarian, Matheson Memorial Library

    Reviewer

    Jennifer Wharton is the Youth Services Librarian at Matheson Memorial Library in Elkhorn, Wisconsin where she maintains the juvenile and young adult graphic novel collections and was responsible for creating the library’s adult graphic novel collection. She is constantly looking for great new comics for kids and teens and new ways to incorporate graphic storytelling in programming. Jennifer blogs for preschool through middle grade at JeanLittleLibrary and has an MLS from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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