Nolstalgia Trip: DINOSAUR MONTH EDITION!
Oh man guys. Have I got a find for you.
There were two books that really inspired me to do a themed Dinosaur Month here on Dial H For Houston. The first was Victor Milan’s The Dinosaur Lords, which I’ve already covered. Here’s the second.
See, a few months ago, I was helping my parents move some stuff around so they could put in new carpeting- and in the process, I had the chance to dig through a bunch of boxes containing long forgotten relics of years past. This book was probably the best find amongst them.
That picture of the cover doesn’t quite show it, but this book has taken a hell of a beating over the years- in the best possible way. See, I, like any other 2nd grader, absolutely loved dinosaurs, to the point where, whenever someone asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d say “I wanna be a paleontologist!” Sadly, I’m not a paleontologist these days, but one could argue I’m not entirely grown up either, but I digress. The important thing is, when I was a kid, I would devour any and all books about dinosaurs I could find. Hence, this one.
Dinosaurs of the Land, Sea, and Air is an anthology, of sorts. See, back in the 80’s, Rourke books put out a line of dinosaur storybooks, each one focusing on a particular dinosaur, ranging from childhood classics like Allosaurus and Triceratops to more obscure ones like Hypsilophodon or Chasmosaurus.
As far as I can tell, Rourke put out at least four “seasons” of these storybooks, each one produced by a writer/artist team covering a handful of random dinosaurs. It kind of makes me wonder if the various artists competed for the ‘cooler’ dinosaurs.
Dinosaurs of the Land, Sea, and Air collects ten of the storybooks. Each story (listed as a “chapter” in the anthology) centers around a titular dinosaur (or occasionally another prehistoric creature that’s not actually a dinosaur) roaming around doing, well, dinosaur stuff. Eating things, trying not to get eaten, etc. Kind of like a nature documentary, almost. And, since these were written in the 80’s, there’s the occasional bit of hilarious out-of-date info. (I’m looking at you, Brontosaurus). There’s also some educational stuff at the back, but it’s safe to say that most young readers were in it for the dinosaur fights.
There’s one thing, however, that makes this book stand out from the stacks of other dinosaur books I read as a kid. Namely, the particular chapters written by Ron Wilson, and illustrated by Doreen Edwards. According to Goodreads, Ron Wilson wrote a bunch of stuff for Marvel (then again, it’s also a pretty common name, so you never know). Doreen Edwards, on the other hand, remains a mystery, as my shallow googling hasn’t really pulled anything up on her, or any of her other work.
Regardless, the Wilson/Edwards chapters have a particularly vibrant art style…and particularly violent storylines. Seriously, it’s pretty much guaranteed that some dinosaur is going to die horribly by the end of one of those books. Check it out.
The one that stuck most with me after all these years is the first ‘chapter’ of the book, in which we follow an aging, starving Allosaurus around as she hunts for a meal- only to fail over and over again. And at the end of the story, she’s killed and eaten by other Allosaurs. Allosauruses. Allosauri. Whatever.
This kind of “nature, red in tooth and claw” sort of thing took elementary-school me completely off guard. I really have to admire Wilson and Edwards for busting out with such a downer story. And it’s not even in the “the dog dies at the end,” literary, Newbury Award way. It’s just straight up bloody dinosaur violence, which is awesome. None of the other stories are quite as grim as the Allosaurus chapter, but I’d love to track down some more of Wilson & Edwards’ other dinosaur stories to see if any of them come close.
Re-reading (or really, re-skimming) the book has brought back some fond memories of a simpler time, and that’s one of the key cornerstones of the internet. Still, there’s not much out there about these Rourke Dinosaur Storybooks, so I’m enjoying doing my part in chronicling a tiny little bit of my childhood- and hopefully someone else’s childhood, as well. Because seriously, anything that manages to be borderline traumatizing for little kids deserves to be remembered. Dinosaur Cannibalism is freakin’ metal.