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Review: Graphic Dinosaurs Series

Snow Wildsmith

School library publisher Rosen adds more dinosaurs to its Graphic Dinosaur series with the release of Set 4 this fall. Writers Rob Shone and David West cover somewhat more obscure dinosaurs this time around: Ichtyosaurus, Archaeopteryx, Iguanodon, Spinosaurus, Oviraptor, and Pachycephalosaurus. These five dinosaurs join Pteranodon, Triceratops, Velociraptor, and Tyrannosaurus (from Set 1, 2008); Diplodocus, Elasmosaurus, Gigantosaurus, and Stegasaurus (from Set 2, 2009); and Allosaurus, Ankylosaurus, Brachiosaurus, and Hadrosaurus (from Set 3, 2010). Though these volumes of this series aren’t outstanding examples of comic art, they are decent selections for libraries looking to add more creative nonfiction.

Ichtyosaurus: The Fish Lizard
Written by Rob Shone; Illustrated by Terry Riley, Rob Shone, and Jamie West
Ages 8-12; Grades 3-6
Rosen/Power Kids Press, 2012, ISBN 9781448852062
32 pages, $25.25

Archaeopteryx: The First Bird
9781448853649 Review: Graphic Dinosaurs SeriesWritten by Rob Shone; Illustrated by Terry Riley, Rob Shone, and Jamie West
Ages 8-12; Grades 3-6
Rosen/Power Kids Press, 2012, ISBN 9781448852048
32 pages, $25.25

Pachycephalosaurus: The Thick-Headed Lizard
Written by Rob Shone; Illustrated by Terry Riley, Gary Jeffrey, and Jamie West
Ages 8-12; Grades 3-6
Rosen/Power Kids Press, 2012, ISBN 9781448852529
32 pages, $25.25

Oviraptor: The Egg Thief
Written and Illustrated by Rob Shone
Ages 8-12; Grades 3-6
Rosen/Power Kids Press, 2012, ISBN 9781448852079
32 pages, $25.25

Iguanodon: The Iguana Tooth
Written and Illustrated by David West
Ages 8-12; Grades 3-6
Rosen/Power Kids Press, 2012, ISBN 9781448852055
32 pages, $25.25

Spinosaurus: The Thorn Lizard
Written and Illustrated by David West
Ages 8-12; Grades 3-6
Rosen/Power Kids Press, 2012, ISBN 9781448852031
32 pages, $25.25

The biggest problem with this part of the Graphic Dinosaur series is the lack of standardized art. Shone’s work, both on his solo title and on the titles he does with Riley, Jeffrey, and West, is a more traditional and basic comic book style. He and his artists use bright colors, thick outlines, and thinner lines for details. The results are clear, easy to follow, and serviceable. West’s work, on the other hand is weaker. In Iguanodon he uses computer-generated images which are intriguingly realistic, but somehow lacking in movement, leaving the book with a static feel. Spinosaurus has the oddest art choice. The images look like they were taken from photographs that were photocopied and then hand-colored. Though this gives them a more realistic feel in terms of color, unfortunately much of the needed depth is missing from the panels, so it is hard at times to get the dinosaurs to stand out from their backgrounds. This means that Spinosaurus is the hardest of the books to follow if you don’t already know a lot about dinosaurs.

In terms of layout, though, the series gets several things right. Each book opens with two pages of information about the dinosaur being studied. The characteristics of the dinosaurs (such as what it its or how a particular body part works) are compared with animals that exist today, which helps bring the prehistoric beast to life in the minds of modern readers. Additionally, the size comparison for both the main dinosaur and for any other dinosaurs mentioned is done using an elementary-school aged boy, rather than a full-grown man. This is an excellent choice as it makes the reader an even more important part of the story. Each book ends with information about the fossil evidence for the dinosaur, along with a list of other dinosaurs mentioned, a glossary, and an index.

The “graphic” portion of the Graphic Dinosaurs series is something of a gimmick. The stories do not need to be told in graphic novel format, and rather than allowing some panels to speak for themselves, the creators always have a text box attached to each one. (Unlike, for example, Richardo Delgado’s magnificent Age of Reptiles, which tells complete dinosaur stories without using any words whatsoever, though that title is more appropriate for a slightly older audience.) Each book has a self-contained story about one particular example of the dinosaur being studied. For example, Spinosaurus follows one male as he hunts for a meal throughout one long day, and Archaeopteryx tells the life of an early bird-creature from his birth until meeting a mate. There is enough hunting and dramatic tension to keep the attention of young readers, but the volumes vary on the amount of blood shown, from none to a medium amount.

Overall this isn’t a perfect series, but it should appeal to young dinosaur fans, who will love the inclusion of so many dinosaurs, even as their parents are left struggling to pronounce the names!

This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © Rosen/Power Kids Press.

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Snow Wildsmith About Snow Wildsmith

Snow Wildsmith is a writer and former teen librarian. She has served on several committees for the American Library Association/Young Adult Library Services Association, including the 2010 Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She reviews graphic novels for Booklist, ICv2's Guide, No Flying No Tights, and Good Comics for Kids and also writes booktalks and creates recommended reading lists for Ebsco's NoveList database. Currently she is working on her first books, a nonfiction series for teens.

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