I’ve featured plenty of books here before with rhyming prose (I Am NOT a Dinosaur! being one of my favorites), but never yet one meant explicitly as “poetry”, though Dinosaur Feathers may sit somewhere on the fence, there. In The Past is my first foray into this somewhat more limited field, though it is by no means the only one out there. There are currently a couple that I know of offhand, including one by Diane Ramic (creator of The Coloring Book of (Scientifically Accurate) Paleofauna), and I’m sure that list will expand as I find more.
Before I get to far into my review, I’ll be up-front and admit I may not be the best person to do this, cretin that I am. While I enjoy things that could be described as “poetic” (“poetic justice”, etc.), I confess I am one of those brutes who tends to think of actual poems as songs that somebody neglected to write the music for. I am even more a lost cause with more avant-garde works, as even the poetry in this book with irregular meter and rhymes drove me a little crazy.
However ill-suited I may be to the task though, I did still enjoy the writing here as far as someone like me is able, and hopefully my review will inspire someone better qualified to pick up the slack, so to speak. The poems describe a range of animals from the Paleozoic to the Cenozoic, and describe their subjects with a certain wit and charm that is plenty disarming.
The illustrations are done in an interesting mixed-media style: I’m pretty sure actual pressed leaves were used in some of the backgrounds. The creatures represented tend to be slightly exaggerated in an almost boardwalk-sketch-artist design, particularly with some of the more familiar animals. I’m not sure that it entirely works for some of them, unfortunately. The Smilodon and most of the dinosaurs end up just looking rather odd, even somewhat ugly in some cases. This is only highlighted by the majority of creatures that actually end up looking rather nice in this style, as it makes the art feel internally inconsistent, to a certain extent.
In The Past makes for great read-aloud material for kids, and the majority of illustrations are genuinely nice for the most part. I don’t think I can quite give it my full Stomp of Approval, but I recommend checking it out if it’s available near you.
Another book of prehistoric poetry (which you may already be aware of) is one I remember from my childhood: Tyrannosaurus Was a Beast by Jack Prelutsky.