CM . . .
. Volume VIII Number 6 . . . . November 16, 2001
Imagining the life of a long-dead, long-decayed dinosaur can't be easy, but it's what dinosaur paleontologists do daily. The results of their research have far-reaching meaning for academia, but have the potential to feed a tremendous public fascination as well. With A Moment in Time with Troodon and A Moment in Time with Albertosaurus, co-authors Philip J. Currie and Eric P. Felber offer their interpretation of a day in each dinosaur's life.
The 48-page books are full of informative details: what Troodon or Albertosaurus (and their compatriots) looked like; where they lived; how they hunted, ate, fought, survived and died. The authors are scientists; Currie is a dinosaurian paleontologist and Curator of Dinosaurs at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology, while Felber is President of Troodon Productions and a geologist, and they bring to the books the full authority of their specialties. Detailed, action-oriented, colour illustrations by renowned natural history illustrator Jan Sovak dramatically play out scripts that follow the dinosaurs as they move through their day.
A section titled "What Do We Really Know About [Troodon/Albertosaurus]?" follows, and presents the fossil and skeleton clues upon which each story is built. Photos accompany the fascinating histories of the dinosaur discoveries which could stand as books on their own. A glossary ends the book; while it does help the uninitiated keep track of the different dinosaurs and the terminology of the trade, some of the definitions contain words that themselves need explaining.
As stories, the text suffers from some overwriting. Such trite expressions as "dropped in his tracks," "snapped like toothpicks" and "far from finished" mark the authors as amateurs. Overly dramatic scenes, particularly those depicting death or battle, make the text an easy target for parody as well: in Albertosaurus, for example, "A dizziness overpowered the matriarch But all her power was useless against this final foe. With her last breath she let out a mighty shriek. She looked up at the deadly sky once more before all went dark and she toppled over on her side." Similarly, Troodon ends rather ridiculously with sage speculation: "Did his eyes hold a trace of admiration for her prowess? Perhaps."
The narrator takes the distant stance of the third person observer. This suits the dreamlike quality that suggests observation of a lost world, but, with no identifiable characters, tends to alienate the reader. A more consistent focus on one individual rather than the family or pack, with recognizable supporting characters, would strengthen the story and save the writers the arduous task of seeking ways to differentiate each beast.
science both interesting and accessible to children is a challenge,
often solved with the addition of a little drama. Albertosaurus
and Troodon are informative books both, built on a brilliant
concept, and written by experts with an intimate connection to the topic.
These advantages are obscured, however, by a too-heavy larding of dramatic
Lee is a Vancouver writer and editor.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.