Having recently reviewed Julius Csotonyi’s Dino World and Dean Lomax’s Prehistoric Pets, I realized I am on something of a pop-up trend recently. That seemed as good an excuse as any to finally get around to one of the best prehistoric pop-up books currently available, Encyclopedia Prehistorica Dinosaurs. Gifted to me by a close friend several years ago, I somehow kept passing over it until now.
Created by Robert Sabuda & Matthew Reinhart, it’s part of the Encyclopedia Prehistorica trilogy of pop-up books that includes Sharks and Other Sea Monsters, which I reviewed during Shark Week a couple years ago. The trilogy also includes a book titled Mega Beasts that appears to feature Cenozoic mammals, though it seems to be out of print at the time of this writing.
Sabuda & Reinhardt push the papercraft of the pop-up format to its full extent. The mechanics of the pop-ups themselves are as much an art as the colorful illustrations themselves. I find every page just as much fun to simply open up as they are to actually read.
There are lots of particularly entertaining individual pop ups within the book, such as a volcano that spouts lava and smoke up from the page, and a giant Tyrannosaurus that snaps out towards the reader. I think my favorite would have to be the recreation of the famous Crystal Palace Iguanodon dinner party (see The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins to learn more). I positively bubbled over in nerdy delight when first opened this one up in front of my friend. It’s just so clever and such a perfect subject for a book like this.
As with Sharks and Other Sea Monsters, the art of the pop-up comes first in the creator’s stylistic priorities for this series, consequently it is somewhat difficult to say anything too specific about the accuracy of the dinosaurs in this book, other than that the creators generally did well by their subjects, or at least as well as could be expected when taking the mechanical requirements of each set piece into account. A naked Velociraptor and Utahraptor appear in the book, but a Caudipteryx, Confuciusornis, and Archaeopteryx all appear to represent Team Feathered Dinosaur, which honestly ain’t too bad for a book like this from 2005. For its part, the factual information presented in the text holds up pretty well, with little that seems out of date.
Encyclopedia Prehistorica Dinosaurs is honestly lots of fun, and quite impressive to boot. While the other two books in its series have somewhat spottier availability, I see this one around quite often, even in brick and mortar bookstores. The beauty of these of these books are their own downside, however. I of course want to keep it looking nice, and since its popups are so intricate, I find myself somewhat excessively protective of it, and have very rarely let my own kids look at it. While that limits the use I get out of it in my own house, perhaps that’s just my own eccentricity talking, and it might not be such an issue to others. Either way, it will certainly enrich the bookshelf of any dinosaur lover. I give Encyclopedia Prehistorica Dinosaurs a hearty recommendation, and my Dino Dad Stomp of Approval.