A California Bestiary

California's own book of magical beasts

Inspired by medieval bestiaries, in which animals were presented in a fashion that favored the fanciful over the factual, Solnit and Caron have partnered to create their own book of magical beasts—one in which the truth is stranger than fiction. Deeply aware of how much animal lore feeds the language of human imagination, Solnit uses her unique literary prowess to describe native California animals in such a way that they become as thrilling as any exotic creature of yore.

From the bluebelly lizard and the California condor to the elephant seal and tule elk, this wondrous cast of characters reveal the depth of their magic. Enriched by Caron’s illustrations, which keenly explore the play between human and animal realms, this collection will feed your dreams.

This book was created in partnership with the Oakland Zoo, which has just unveiled plans to create an ambitious native California animal exhibit where local species will be rehabilitated and cared for.

Mona CaronMona Caron grew up in the Swiss Italian Alps, among rivers, mosses, ferns, and lizards, where she dissected flowers instead of listening to lessons. She moved to San Francisco to study illustration and subsequently became one of the city’s premier muralists. Much of her work deals with human history, utopian possibility, and natural history.

Photo by Nicholas Kasimatis

Rebecca SolnitRebecca Solnit grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she crossed paths with a great many bluebelly lizards, as well as gopher snakes, mule deer, and quail. Many of their books have California, San Francisco, and western landscapes and nature as their subjects.

Photo by Jim Harrison