Scaly Spotted Feathered Frilled: How Do We Know What Dinosaurs Really Looked Like?

Scaly Spotted Feathered Frilled: How Do We Know What Dinosaurs Really Looked Like? illus. by John Sibbick et al. 64p. chron. diag. glossary. index. notes. photos. reprods. Houghton Harcourt. Oct. 2013. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-547-99134-4.
RedReviewStarGr 5–7—This is a stellar look at the methods paleoartists employ to bring dinosaurs to life on paper. With a fascinating mix of text, expert quotes, and outstanding artwork, it showcases an aspect of paleontology that kids may not know much about. A lot of books focus on the action at paleontological digs and the reconstruction of what is found in them, but Thimmesh spotlights the gifted individuals who combine their talent with the latest scientific knowledge to layer muscles and flesh onto skeletal remains, adding another intriguing dimension to the study of these ancient creatures. These artistic sleuths pull together clues from plant and rock studies and other sources to create images as thrilling for the youngest dinosaur enthusiasts as they are informative for the most studied researchers. The highlighted paleoartists' renderings get full-bleed treatment, providing readers with a variety of spectacular interpretations of how dinosaurs appeared when they roamed the planet. Complementing the exceptional illustrations is an engaging, informative text written in a conversational tone. Artist profiles are included. The book is presented in a striking palette of saturated earth tones, completing a terrific package that will draw in browsers and serve report writers while inspiring young artists to consider applying their skills to this enthralling field.—Alyson Low, Fayetteville Public Library, AR
Scientists know a great deal about dinosaurs, except for one big unanswered (and likely unanswerable) question: what did they actually look like? With only a few rare fossilizations of soft parts, many dinosaur characteristics -- from skin color and texture to thickness of muscles and facial expressions -- remain a mystery. To create images for books, scientific reports, and museums, paleoartists use scientific evidence and a dash of artistic license to come up with the best possible approximations. Thimmesh's explanations of this process are informative and well researched, including quotes from interviews with six prominent paleoartists. Decisions about the positioning of the dinosaurs, how to portray movement, whether they traveled in groups or alone, even the plants, landscapes, and other species associated with their habitats must be carefully grounded in the best available evidence. The book's thoughtful design shows a historical progression of our knowledge of dinosaurs, sometimes with early-twentieth-century art placed alongside modern images for comparison, or sequences of pictures that show how an artist takes a sketch of a fossilized skull and moves, step by step, to re-create facial details. Captions for the illustrations are very detailed and just as informative as the main text. Readers will come away from this excellent book with a new appreciation for dinosaur imagery and for the talented paleoartists who produce it. danielle j. ford

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