Thursday, October 01, 2009

Book Review: The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins -- October is International Dinosaur Month

October is International Dinosaur Month, to the delight of children and adults alike. You might want to make plans to sit down as a family and watch (again!) Jurassic Park and Ice Age, but there are plenty of great picture books to read as well.

The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins
By Barbara Kerley; Illustrated by Brian Selznick
Arthur A. Levine Books
48 pgs
Grades 2-5

This book came out eight years ago, but it feels every bit as fresh and innovative now as it did then. The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins is the true story of Victorian artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, a painter and sculptor who was commissioned by Queen Victoria to recreate life-sized dinosaurs based on fossil remains, thereby educating people who’d never even heard of dinosaurs about their pre-historic existence. Using clay models, Hawkins then erected skeletons made of iron, covering them with cement casts to create his public displays. In addition to the sculptures in England, Hawkins made two for Central Park in New York City. Unfortunately, he antagonized the wrong person and the sculptures were smashed to pieces and then buried beneath the park, where they remain today. Though many of Hawkins’ models have been found to be inaccurate, the true subject of this book is his passion for the ancient creatures. Selznick’s artwork contributes as much to the story's exuberance as the words do. Independent readers grades 2-5.

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