THROWBACK THURSDAY: REVIEWING A REISSUE
A number of years back (I’m not sure precisely when) I reviewed this book on Goodreads — not the 20th Anniversary Edition, but the original edition. At the time, as a bookseller, I was very impressed with the Dinotopia series of books and recommended them often. However, this particular book was my least favorite, getting three of five stars.
With this 20th Anniversary Edition (has it really been that long!?) I was delighted to take the journey again, and Gurney and the publisher offer up a few bonuses as well.
First, I stand by my initial thoughts of the story. I love the idea of man and dinosaurs living and working together in Dinotopia, but the addition of modern mechanical devices, making this a dino-steam-punk story, just spoils the work for me. That said, however, I should point out that this complaint of mine is in comparison to the other Dinotopia books. The story still stacks up well against other children’s and YA books, and NOTHING compares to the incredible art.
I enjoyed the board game in the initial edition, but the bonus material here, celebrating the 20th Anniversary, is a great collection. We start with a thirteen-page story by James Gurney, “The Story of Blake Terrapin.” Blake Terrapin leads the resistance on the ground while Gideon (the protagonist in the earlier portion of the book) takes to the air. Please note that the Goodreads description of this story is that it is “a cinematic treatment.” This is important because it reads like a cinematic treatment, rather than a story. How is it different? Think of it as a detailed outline to prepare someone to draw the pictures.
There are ten new pictures included with the story, and these too aren’t necessarily completed paintings. Some are quite detailed, nearly fully finished works, and some are clearly rough sketches.
Next, in the bonus materials section, is a “Portfolio: Images from Dinotopia’s Age of Heroes” — eighteen pages of new art (again ranging from nearly completed paintings to sketches) including thumbnail storyboard sketches and character sketches from different angles. It’s fun to see how the creative mind prepares for the work. Seeing how James Gurney sets up the books and how he plans the characters, looking at them from all sides, even if they may never appear that way in his paintings, really shows the care Gurney has for the work.
And just as Gurney prepares for his art with a variety of sketches, he also has developed a history of the land and the people of Dinotopia, as is evidenced by “Backstory Notes,” the final portion of the bonus material. From a description of the four ancient empires of Dinotopia (Poseidos, Chandara, Armakia, and Pelladrine) to the human characters, animal characters, and the vehicles and tech, Gurney has given much thought and attention to this land … and it shows.
And of course there’s the art. The art is gorgeous. Have I said that yet? In fact, I often file these books in with my collection of art books, instead of with the children’s picture books or even the story books. The books are worth the price for the art alone.
I’ve increased my rating, in part because I’m reading this without having just read any of the other Dinotopia books for comparison, and because the bonus material really is a treat.
Looking for a good book? Dinotopia: First Flight: 20th Anniversary Edition by James Gurney is a book that should be in your home if you have children under the age of 20 or if you just like good dinosaur fantasy or if you just enjoy really great art.
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Dinotopia: First Flight: 20th Anniversary Edition
author: James Gurney
artist: James Gurney
publisher: Calla Editions
hardcover, 112 pages