Wednesday, April 20, 2011

But I Don't WANNA be a Hypsilophodon! - Let's Read Some Stuff from a Classroom's Recycling Bin!

Happy 4/20 all you smelly hippies! Are any of you hallucinating that you are a different kind of "Hippie"? A Hypsilophodont I mean? Cause that's the subject of today's first book. Man, that was the most forced segway ever!

Dinosaur for a Day - page 16/17 painting by Mark Alan Weatherby

OK, seriously. Today's first book is Dinosaur for a Day, written by Jim Murphy and illustrated by Mark Alan Weatherby published by Scholastic Blue Ribbon books in 1992. It's a day in the life of a mother Hypsilophodon and her babies. The text is marginally interesting but the illustrations... holy cow!

Dinosaur for a Day - page 8/9 painting by Mark Alan Weatherby

A few details are outdated (ah, 80's Deinonychuses), but the full-page spread paintings are absolutely gorgeous. I would have taken more pictures but the book is a former classroom title and was falling apart in my hands. There's great, almost Guerney-esque stuff in this book, if you can find it.

Former classroom titles? Yes indeed, today's books were owned by a teacher friend who recently "weeded" her in-classroom science library. This brings up an interesting issue: how often, exactly, should a school go through it's nonfiction book collection? The wonderful Awful Library Books blog has many, many thoughts on this subject. And sometimes it's pretty obvious when a book needs to go:

Where Did Dinosaurs Go?  Pages 14/15

This is from the book, Usborne Starting Point Science: Where Did Dinosaurs Go? Published in 1991 by Usborne Publishing Ltd. Written by Mike Unwin, illustrated by Andrew Robinson, Toni Goffe and Guy Smith. There is, sadly, no indication as to who did what though.

Aside from these little cartoon illustrations, the art in this book is remarkably generic. The most interesting "Vintage" feature here are the, uh, facts given. For example, the book helpfully informs it's young 1991 audience that all of the dinosaurs, even the little cute ones, were killed off -- but not by flowers.

Where Did Dinosaurs Go?  Page 2

Also, dinosaurs were "bigger than the lizards you can see today". Yeah.

New Dinos! - Page 22 Painting by Alan Barnard

But sometimes it isn't very obvious that a book is out of date. This painting is from a book with the insta-dated title of New Dinos! The Latest Finds! The Coolest Dinosaur Discoveries! Written by Shelley Tanaka, illustrated by Alan Barnard. Published by Scholastic in 2003.

As it happens, we've learned quite a lot since 2003. The artwork in this book is gorgeous but it's sobering how fast it became outdated. For example, here the artist looks like he is *just* warming to the idea of feathered troodonts.

New Dinos! - Page 20 Painting by Alan Barnard

But then you get to this page about Willo, the little ornithopod that appeared to have her heart preserved within her body. It was recently reported that further testing proved that lump isn't her heart at all. (Sad trombone.) And teachers, this is why we use primary resources whenever we can.

Brace yourself for this next one.

New Dinos! - Page 17 Painting by Alan Barnard

That there is meant to be Masiakasaurus.

Take a minute or two, let it all sink in.

Now, to be fair, the artist probably had no idea what Masiakasaurus looked like, beyond that strange skull. I'm still not clear as to what Masiakasaurus looked like, exactly; even today all the attention tends to be taken by those crazy teeth. And back in 2003, the only thing besides those terrible teeth the mainstream press could report on this animal is the fact that "he's named after Mark Knopfler, LOL Dire Straits really IS a dinosaur rock band hurpf-durpf!"

Tangent: If anyone calls your band (or something you like) a "dinosaur" in order to imply that it is "old and busted" or perhaps even an "epic failure", counter with this:

"Oh, so you mean it ruled the world unchallenged for well over 160 million years? Becoming the arguably most successful and diverse group of tetrapods ever known? And its descendants now rule the skies? (Dramatic pause.) Yeah, f*** you."

Anyway, Masiakasaurus knopfleri. The critter, a basal Abelisaur, probably looked pretty strange in life but probably not *this* weird.

Edit: Zach's comment below reminded me that I could have sworn that there was a recent reevaluation of what Masiakasaurus might have looked like floating around online. A quick Google search and voila! (Link goes to a Dinosaur Tracking article about the paper just in case it vanishes again. Here's the paper itself.)


Sketch of the Day! I liked the Parasaurolophus from the art card I shared yesterday, so after some "Pokemon" doodles, I decided to tell more of his story...

3.31.11 Sketchbook Page


Albertonykus said...

I have that Usborne book, in fact. Certainly looks very silly now that you bring it up.

I remember reading the Hypsilophodon book at a library, too.

The art style of the 2003 book looks familiar, but I don't think I've seen this exact one.

Zach said...

Several comments:

Back in 2003, the only piece of Masiakasaurus' head that was known (aside from the maxilla) was the dentary. I routinely criticized artists for portraying the entire cranium. Now, in the Year of Our Arceus 2011, a monograph was published (want a copy?) that fills in a few more details on the skull. But not all of them. It's still not clear what the premaxillary teeth looked like.

Anyway, that painting looks like a Hell Dinosaur, something one would see in D&D instead of in the wild.

Also, and this is just a nitpick that I was once guilty of myself: it's "abelisaur." With an I. Please forgive me. But aren't they EFFING AWESOME? Carnotaurus, baby!

Finally, I don't really like the Dream World. It's a bunch of time-wasting Flash games and all you get out of it is Berries and maybe a new Pokemon. I'd rather have a way to close the gap between your first fight with the Elite Four and the Lv. 65 monsters that random Trainers routinely use in the aftermath. WHAT THE HELL?!

JerkyD said...

"The text is marginally interesting but the illustrations... holy cow!"

I concur. However, I don't get why a book that was obviously trying to portray dinos realistically portrayed EK dinos (E.g. Hypsilophodon) as coexisting w/LK dinos (E.g. Maiasaura).

"This brings up an interesting issue: how often, exactly, should a school go through it's nonfiction book collection?"

More often than it actually does. E.g. I was in high school during during the mid 2000's & the library's most recent dino book was over a decade old ( ).

raptor_044 said...

"I concur. However, I don't get why a book that was obviously trying to portray dinos realistically portrayed EK dinos (E.g. Hypsilophodon) as coexisting w/LK dinos (E.g. Maiasaura)."

I've since learned that Sereno's to blame. HMNH has a copy of this book, & in it Murphy thanks Sereno "for checking factual details in the text". IMO, a good fact-checker would've recommended using Microvenator & Tenontosaurus in place of Troodon & Maiasaura, respectively.