Monday, December 17, 2012

Nonfiction Monday: Small and tall tales of extinct animals by Helene Rajcak and Damien Laverdunt

Twenty-seven extinct (or nearly so) animals are presented in this oversized book. They range from the prehistoric to the modern and across the map from the Americas to Oceania. Each full page spread presents a six-panel cartoon strip telling a legend, story, or conversation between the animals on the right and a large illustration of the animal and further information on the left.

Some of the animals include the Malagasy dwarf hippopotamus, which some scientists think is the basis for the legendary monster kilopilopitsofy, and which is accompanied by a fictional comic of  an encounter between a Malagasy native and the hippo. Then there's the elephant bird, thought to be the inspiration for Sinbad's Roc. The woolly mammoth spread includes a brief exchange between the scientists who disinterred an almost perfect specimen in 1997 and the Chinese river dolphin also includes a science expedition, this one in 2007 when scientists concluded the dolphin was extinct.

Additional information on each of the four land areas - the Americas, Africa, Eurasia and Oceania - is included at the beginning of each section. An in-depth glossary and further illustrations and timeline of the extinct animals is also included. I did think the introduction was a bit grandiose, especially when it says "Few books dare to touch on humanity's role in wildlife extinction." I can't think of a single wildlife title I've purchased for the library in the past few years that doesn't touch on this, but this is a French import, so maybe their children's books are different.

The art is very interesting and it took me a while to realize that it strongly reminded me of the botanical drawings of the 18th and 19th century, but with color. There are touches of humor in the cartoons, although they do all have a sameness about them. I did like the silhouettes of the extinct creature vs. a human, so you can see the relative sizes.

Verdict: This won't be for everyone, but the very different illustrations and the variety of information will interest some kids, especially those who have outgrown dinosaurs but are still interested in prehistoric creatures. I would have liked a little more background information and knowing how they decided how to picture some of the prehistoric creatures and more about the final sighting and how they were determined to be extinct, but it's a good introduction to extinction, biodiversity, and folktales.

ISBN: 9781877579066; Published 2012 by Gecko Press; Borrowed from another library in the consortium

1 comment:

supratentorial said...

This looks interesting. It might be just the kind of quirky science book that would appeal to my oldest.

Thanks for the review.