Dinosaur Alphabet

This one is a bit older than most books I review here, but I thought I would take a look at it to expand my catalog of “ABC books”. To that end, here’s Dinosaur Alphabet, written & illustrated by Harry S. Robins!

The first thing that immediately jumped out at me was the very strong William Stout vibe the illustrations in this book possessed. If you are unfamiliar with William Stout, I would direct you to Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs’ review of his seminal work, The (New) Dinosaurs (later editions of his book added the “New” to the title).

It’s all pretty good stuff for early-2000’s “non-professional” paleoart. A few tropes from the time can be seen, like a more shell-like look for ankylosaurs, but impressively the Deinonychus are better feathered than was standard practice at the time! (They do happen to look more like Velociraptor, but we’ll ignore that.)

Speaking of vibes, this Zuniceratops entry really reads like Phil Tippett’s iconic stop-motion short, Prehistoric Beast, even down to the shape of that tyrannosaur’s skull!

But the illustrations aren’t the only draw to this book. In the vein of In The Past, Harry Robins has written short poems for each of the creatures in this book, operating in an ABAB rhyme scheme. Despite the flowery language, he also manages to keep the descriptions rather down-to-earth, and reasonably descriptive of the animals as science knows them.

The back half of the book actually goes over each of the dinosaurs again, giving more information about them, and sometimes explaining the poems line-by-line, which is particularly useful for readers who may not be sure whether the poem exaggerated or merely spoke in metaphorical language. Dimetrodon, which appeared without text on the title page, also here gets its own poem explaining that it does not belong to the dinosaur family (much like its little poem in I Am NOT a Dinosaur!), though it does not get an explanatory paragraph.

On a final note, the book uses a few now-defunct genus names, including Monoclonius, Seismosaurus, & Ultrasauros, which is one more sign of the book’s age, but their entries are still nice enough. Seismosaurus has a particularly evocative illustration: the line “Devouring forests on her way” is reflected in the picture, with green forest on one side and barren trunks on the other.

If you come across Dinosaur Alphabet at the library or a used book store, I certainly recommend picking it up for the fun poems and maybe even the recent-history perspective on paleoart, but I wouldn’t necessarily go out of my way to find it. If you’d like to see more prehistoric ABC books, check out my list of past reviews of ABC books here!

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