Extreme Dinosaurs

by Luis V. Rey

Published by Chronicle Books

62 pages, 2001


by Brian Cooley and Mary Ann Wilson

Published by Annick Press

58 pages, 2000

What Did Dinosaurs Eat?

by Elizabeth MacLeod

illustrated by Gordon Sauvé

Published by Kids Can Press

32 pages, 2001

Dinosaur Bones

by Bob Barner

Published by Chronicle Books

36 pages, 2001





Darling Dinos

Reviewed by Monica Stark


What is it about the concept of the dinosaur that so fascinates young children? Is it the tragedy of their sudden end? That they were but are no longer? In the introduction to Extreme Dinosaurs, author Luis V. Rey muses on this very topic:

Dinosaurs haunted my childhood. When I was young I was in awe of the immense dinosaur skeletons that towered over me in museums. I became lost in the incredible dinosaur pictures I saw in books. ... Dinosaurs seemed part of a lost fantasy world that I loved returning to again and again.

This early passion led to Rey's career: known internationally for his illustrations and models of dinosaurs as they might really have been, in Extreme Dinosaurs he shares his art and his knowledge with youngsters in a book that combines a lot of interesting dinosaur facts with some of the best dinosaur illustrations you're likely to see.

Because of his area of expertise, Extreme Dinosaurs is on the cutting edge of dinosaur know-how. No mud colored dinos for Rey: these prehistoric monsters are brightly-colored, highly-textured and quite beautiful and the information shared is hardly prehistoric, discussing the evolution of modern dinosaur understanding as well as the beasts themselves. Children with a passion for dinosaurs as they really might have been will enjoy Extreme Dinosaurs.

Brian Cooley and Mary Ann Wilson's Make-a-Saurus: My Life With Raptors and Other Dinosaurs is a book that would have pleased the young Rey. No mere bystanders, Cooley and Wilson not only encourage young model builders to make their own dinosaurs -- with careful instructions, photos and lists of materials -- they show you how, simply introducing some fairly sophisticated artistic ideas and techniques along the way:

The next step is to build an armature. An armature is a frame that will support the rest of your sculpture. It acts a little like a skeleton. If we didn't have skeletons, we'd look a lot like water balloons rolling around on the floor.

Cooley and Wilson's dinosaurs are constructed of various materials easy to find in most homes: newspaper, light wire, plaster, burlap and other easily locatable items. The techniques used to make more sophisticated models ("Any plastic toys you have ever played with came from molds.") are illustrated as well, though most kids won't want to try this at home: it's just more difficult to get our minds around working with materials like epoxy and fiberglass, but it's an interesting process to see inside, in any case.

While Make-a-Saurus doesn't offer as much dino-driven information as the other selections in this review, it's an enjoyable exercise in bringing dinosaurs to life.

What Did Dinosaurs Eat?: And Other Things You Want to Know About Dinosaurs might just as well have been subtitled: My First Dinosaur Book. Aimed at readers aged 3 to 7, the book approaches its subject from the least complex side, offering answers that will be easily understood by the most basic of readers. For example, in the section entitled "How long could a dinosaur live?" we learn some very interesting stuff:

The biggest dinosaurs lived the longest. Some of the largest were probably hundreds of years old! A dinosaur as big as a man was about 15 to 20 years old. Smaller dinosaurs had shorter lives.

Where do scientists find dinosaur bones? What happened to the dinosaurs? Could dinosaurs fly? How were baby dinosaurs born? All of these questions -- and several more -- are answered in a fashion more simple and straightforward than you would have thought possible with this potentially complex topic.

Dinosaur Bones by San Francisco artist and illustrator Bob Barner, takes a similar approach, aimed at the same age group. However, Barner's dino-view is, in a sense, from the inside-out. Many of the illustrations in Dinosaur Bones feature active dinosaur skeletons -- with surprisingly pleasant faces -- rendered in charmingly rough torn paper collage.

Rhyme carries the book -- "Dinosaurs are gone for good. Maybe dinosaurs once lived in your neighborhood!" -- Barner's art sets it apart and keeps it memorable while on each page little factoids add both value and interest to an already-interesting book. For instance, on a two-page spread that features a bright and skillful illustration and a piece of a rhyme, we learn that:

Brachiosaurus weighed more than ten elephants. It was one of the heaviest and longest dinosaurs. A hungry Brachiosaurus used its long neck to reach tender leaves at the tops of trees.

Only slightly ironically, Barner's other children's books include the very successful Dem Bones, a fun little volume that helps children learn about the human body. | October 2001


Monica Stark is a freelance writer and editor.