Shine-A-Light: Dinosaurs

I’ve been making a habit of attempting to corrupt influence the minds of the next generation among my family and friends, typically including some of the books I’ve given my “Stomp of Approval” to on this site among Christmas presents to nieces, nephews, and the like. My best friend since high school recently decided to return the favor, and beat me to the punch by sending us one I had had my eye on for a while. So did he choose well? Let’s see!

Written by Sara Hurst and illustrated by Lucy Cripps, Shine-A-Light: Dinosaurs reads like any number of similar books about life in the time of dinosaurs (say, for example, History Uncovered: Dinosaurs), but with one significant twist that sets it apart. The front side of each page features lushly illustrated paleo-environments suspiciously scant on inhabitants, while the reverse side is all-black, save for some “reverse silhouttes” of various dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures. If you look at the front side while shining a flashlight on the reverse side, the light shines through the opaque critters to make them appear as if by magic on the front side!

An example of what the front and back sides of the pages look like when not using the flashlight based feature. This set depicts Triassic dinosaurs (and a bonus pterosaur): for more info about them, check out When Dinos Dawned, Mammals Got Munched, and Pterosaurs Took Flight!

Often the book teases the next reveal with a fairly basic set up, for example, asking readers “what’s hiding behind that bush?” Occasionally, however, it gets particularly clever, such as when it asks readers to ponder how a massive creature like Giraffatitan could support its huge bulk. Utilizing their flashlights, readers can reveal an “X-ray view” of the dinosaur, making its bones visible within its life reconstruction! Readers can then clearly see the large hollow spaces within its bones, particularly in the neck, which the book informs us would have housed air sacs in life much like birds, drastically reducing the creature’s weight.

What is it about sauropod skeletons that lend themselves to such clever special features in books with a special hook like this? I’m reminded of the Xenoposeidon skeleton in Alphasaurs and Other Prehistoric Types.

There’s a lot to like about this book, though disappointingly a few of the illustrations don’t quite hold up. Most glaringly, the Tyrannosauruses on both the cover and inside the book look rather squashed, and the Triceratops illustrations similarly look rather deformed. I can forgive certain concessions to artistic license, but there’s no reason for these critters to look as misshapen as they do. The text at least conveys generally accurate scientific information, though it tends to stick to a pretty basic level.

Not all the secret critters in this book belong to the dinosaur clade. Here we can see a pair of the “flying squirrel mimic” Volaticotherium, which readers may remember from Mammals! Explorer.

I don’t think I can’t quite give this one my “Stomp of Approval” do to the easily avoidable issues with some of the illustrations, but that doesn’t mean I don’t recommend it anyway. My boys love using their flashlights to uncover the secrets of each page, and it has earned a regular slot in our bedtime story rotation. Shine-A-Light: Dinosaurs is sure to prove a hit with dinosaur-obsessed youngsters in any household.

3 comments

      1. It’s a bit simpler than that, I think: the translucent pages sit against a dark background that obscures the details, but the head of the “torch” is white, so it reflects more light, thus “lighting up” parts of a translucent page when slid directly behind it. Pretty ingenious!

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