Dinosaur Atlas

I’m a sucker for infographics, and atlas style books provide that in spades! I’ve been meaning to feature several prehistoric atlas books at Dino Dad Reviews for some time (EDIT: see also my review of Children’s Dinosaur Atlas), but I keep getting distracted by other projects. With Coronavirus quaratines still in full swing at this time, I figured it was the perfect time to get around to some of these reviews I had been putting off, so let’s start straight in with one of the better ones out there.

Dinosaur Atlas, written by Anne Rooney and illustrated by James Gilleard, features various dinosaurs and other Mesozoic animals organized by continent, as well as introductions to basic paleontological concepts and methods. This includes moments and individuals from the history of paleontology, from Cope & Marsh’s “Bone War”, to the recently deceased Jose Bonaparte, to the mother of paleontology, Mary Anning (for more on her, see my reviews of Mary Anning’s Curiosity and Stone Girl, Bone Girl).

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Gilleard’s map of Europe featuring several well-known prehistoric creatures from across the continent.

After a few pages acclimatizing readers to the basic subjects Dinosaur Atlas covers, Rooney intersperses every other page with a map of a particular continent by Gilleard showing important creatures from various localities found within said continent. Each such page folds open from the center to reveal a quadruple-wide page of more in-depth information relevant to the locations and creatures introduced on the associated map.

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The map of Europe seen above unfolds into this spread seen here. A section on Megalosaurus has been cut off on the left hand side of this image. The Balaur bondoc on the upper right seem to take strong inspiration from a pair of illustrations by Emily Willoughby.

Rooney frequently includes “lifesize” images of fossil elements among the various factoids on the page. These help ground the reader and give something of a sense of the scale of these animals, both colossal and minuscule.

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Numerous smaller flaps on each page open up to provide even more information for the reader. My favorite of these are the flaps that allow one to flip between skeletal and fleshy reconstructions of the dinosaurs featured. It’s always fun to see alternate views of them like this.

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A nice thing about atlas type books is that they inherently provide a natural opportunity to seamlessly discuss more obscure taxa. If it stuck only to more famous genera, certain corners of the map would get cluttered pretty quickly and ruin the visual appeal of the illustrations, so the author and illustrator inherently gravitate towards describing a more varied selection of creatures with the limited number of featured animals they can fit on each page.

Speaking of the illustrator, I find Gilleard’s vector illustrations very pleasing to look at. The crisp, colorful, clear images give a very clear sense of “here’s what you need to know about this animal” just from looking at the illustrations alone. While I have a soft spot for classic artistic mediums, there’s no denying that the more varied art styles paleoartists have felt free to experiment have made the landscape of dinosaur books far more dynamic than when I was growing up.

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I found a Ray Troll reference! This looks nearly identical to Troll’s geologic column that appears in the Cruisin’ series and the Ages of Rock music video.

I thoroughly enjoyed Dinosaur Atlas, and I can’t believe I’ve neglected to review it for as long as I have! This is one that deserves a place in every dinosaur lover’s home, as it packs a lot of punch into its page, with lovely illustrations and a dynamic presentation. I’m pleased to say Dinosaur Atlas gets my Dino Dad Stomp of Approval!

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