Before writing and illustrating Dinotopia
, James Gurney painted reconstructions of ancient civilizations for National Geographic
magazine. He has illustrated seventeen stamps for the U.S. Postal Service, including The World of Dinosaurs. His Dinotopia
artwork has won the Hugo, Chesley, Spectrum, and World Fantasy Awards and has been exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution, the Norman Rockwell Museum, and the Delaware Art Museum. His most recent books, Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn't Exist
(2009) and Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter
(2010), are based on his daily blog gurneyjourney.blogspot.com.
Grade 4 Up-- Arthur Denison, a Victorian scientist, and his son Will are shipwrecked on an amazing island . Here, dinosaurs live in harmony with a colony of humans, made up of other marooned travelers and their descendants. Will and his father are fascinated by the technology of their new home. They visit a hatchery, a blacksmith in Volcaneum, and a city built on waterfalls. The boy is most impressed by the Skybax Riders, people who are trained to fly on winged reptiles. Deciding to join them, he goes through their rigorous training program. In the meantime, his father finds a route to the dinosaur underground, a mythic place referred to in old dinosaur tales. He returns to find his son has ``earned his wings,'' but his discoveries are saved for (one assumes) another book. This fairytale will capture the interests of older fantasy readers--those perhaps, who enjoy the ``Lord of the Rings'' trilogy (Houghton), or Lewis's ``Narnia'' series (Macmillan). Younger readers, too, will be enticed by the dramatic, full-color illustrations, which include both panoramic sweeps of the utopian cities and detailed sketches of Dinotopian contraptions. While the women are more active than their Victorian counterparts, the adventurers here are still Will and Dad. Also, the illustrations tend to portray nonwhite Dinotopians as exotics, a stereotype better left in the past. Overall, the success of this story depends upon readers' ability to accept these creatures as peaceful, intelligent herbivores. Advanced readers who find sharp-toothed carnivores more to their liking may prefer a visit to Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park (Knopf, 1990), for a not-so-tame tale also set on a dinosaur isle. --Cathryn A. Camper, Minneapolis Public Library
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