Monday, July 25, 2011

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Dinosaur Poems

In something of a departure for this series (one that may be seen as cheating), the dinosaurs in Dinosaur Poems aren't intended to look anatomically correct at all - they're deliberately cartoonish, exaggerated and comic in keeping with the tone of the poems themselves. Oh, and I suppose that, being from 1993, the book isn't that 'vintage' either. But you did let me get away with Dinosaurs! (twice), and many of us in our 20s have very fond memories of being a child in 1993 for some reason. Without further delay, then...

Just look at that cover. Aren't you in love already? Artist Korky Paul brings an extremely lively and irreverent style to the illustrations; notice that while most of the kids are enjoying sliding down the sauropod, one of them's been crushed underfoot. You'll notice a few recurring visual motifs on the cover, too, like the bizarre fluffy hair and inexplicable band-aids sported by the dinosaurs. The T. rex isn't a patch (do you see?) on the one inside, either - I'll be getting to that.

An unruly pet Allosaurus accompanies Companion by Clive Webster. Naturally, Paul's chosen to depict a gigantic toothy beast chowing down on snack-sized schoolchildren rather than the otherwise placid creature described in the poem. (Good thing too, 'cos while a huge domesticated theropod would have been amusing, this illustration would trump it any day.) I love the hands being thrown up as a kid descends into the dinosaur's gullet as if it were a water slide.

This one's here for the contrast between the fluffy pink slippers and the dinosaur's terrifyingly toothy grimace. And the poem's just daft in the best sort of way.

So here's that T. rex. Stunningly deranged and spraying mud everywhere as it powers forward through the jungle, it's every inch the dim-witted, single-minded killing machine (while the clasping hands add a nice touch of anxiety). Wes Magee's words are wonderful, too - I particularly like the pertinent description of the animal's feet as being like those of a "monstrous hen". Magee also asks the important question: "Would you dare stick your tongue out at him?" Maybe if you're Jack Horner.

This is one of my absolute favourites. It's another funny rhyme paired with an equally amusing illustration. The smirks on the faces of the dinosaurs are priceless; I especially love the blue Triceratops, grinning mischievously as his theropod friend daintily knocks on the door. The image of a gaggle of giant dinosaurs politely calling at a house with sinister motives in mind is just hilarious.

I've included this one for the poem, rather than the illustration, although of course the latter is still superb. It's the bluntness of the ending that I appreciate - "'ve been dead/For ninety million years." (I am fond of the cat in the lower right corner, mind.)

Last one for now, because I'm starting to get scared of how much I'm violating copyright law. Here, Clive Webster proposes a new theory as to why the dinosaurs went extinct, one surely engineered to appeal to schoolchildren everywhere. It's nice and simple - they were bored to death during the Dawn of Curriculum-Based Schooling. Korky Paul provides an endlessly-yammering caveman oblivious of the fact that his saurian pupils have been reduced to skeletons. A perfect finale for the book. And hey, if you want to see more, get in touch via the comments (unless you're from Oxford University Press).


  1. Ah, don't exclude those of us who have just recently departed our 20s (strong emphasis on 'just recently'). We were children then too...

    These are brilliant, I'd love to see more. And perhaps you can also send a little wish that I may get to illustrate something not dissimilar someday. I did a book with OUP once. I can't think why they haven't asked me again... >:/

    By the by, I once attended a talk at the V&A on contemporary illustration and Korky Paul was one of the speakers. :)

    P.S. In an entirely unrelated matter, I think your blog hates me. I always have trouble commenting as it always refuses to recognise my Livejournal ID. This must be my twentieth attempt at posting this comment now (I'm not even kidding -- I really do mean twentieth).

  2. I didn't have this one growing up, but I like these pictures!

    Something I find a interesting is that in the book of Dinosaur Poems I did have as a kid ("Tyrannosaurus was a Beast" by Jack Prelutsky) there's a very similar "we miss this dinosaur" kind of poem specifically about Iguanodon as well. Coincidence?

  3. @gsilverfish I think it's a coincidence. Dinosaur Poems lists 'Ode to an Extinct Dinosaur' as coming from 'In the Garden of Bad Things' by Doug MacLeod, although there is actually a poem from the book you mentioned in there, called simply 'Ankylosaurus' (which I haven't shown).

    @Niroot: I had problems too, before I got a Google ID. No idea how it can be helped, I'm afraid.

  4. @Niroot - Sorry about that, have you had trouble on other blogger blogs? Of course, I realize that now it's going to take you three hours to respond. I've considered trying one of the other commenting methods, but not sure if it's possible with blogger, and we haven't had enough comment volume to warrant the time it would take to figure out.

  5. I occasionally have the same problem on other blogger blogs, but when I do, it usually takes just a few more trials to sort out. This one was a record for sure. Oh, well, no matter. I'll post with the Google ID henceforth. I've decided to venture into Blogger's murky waters at any rate, so I may as well.


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