A large share of my to-scan stack is taken up by titles from the Rourke Publishing series of storybooks featuring prehistoric animals. Today, we'll look at their 1984 Iguanodon title, written by Rupert Oliver with illustrations by Bernard Long, a British illustrator who unfortunately lacks much of a web presence. But his national heritage is fitting, as this title takes place in Early Cretaceous England, which we know from the geological feature called the Wealden Supergroup.
First, I am delighted to report the return of the tongue-lolling Iguanodon, which appeared in a recent VDA post by Marc. Here, it accompanies text explaining that the Iguanodon could smell an approaching storm, so I suppose that it's meant to be a scent organ.
When megalosaurs attack, out comes Iguanodon's tongue again.
Ditto for when, in a scene perhaps inspired by Fellowship of the Ring, the Iguanodon escapes the megalosaurs thanks to a flash flood. If only Long had the cheek to shape the surging water into enraged ornithopods.
In other news, those megalosaurs are of the hunchback persuasion.
With that bit of meme-spotting out of the way, we can proceed to the work in general. While the illustrations may not be up to the level of anatomical accuracy of Greg Paul or Doug Henderson, to pick two eighties dinosaur artists out of a hat, they're excellent quality for a children's storybook. And writer Rupert Oliver and the folks at Rourke deserve a mighty tip of the hat for considering the setting in which their prehistoric characters would live. The text describes "a vast green carpet of cycads, horsetails, and rushes," and Long mixes these in with conifers rather than simply slapping green-plant like things and anachronisitic grasses in the background.
The fauna are appropriate, for the most part, including ubiquitous rhamphorynchids buzzing about in the skies (reminiscent of the great flocks of crows now making themselves a noisy part of my town's milieu) and beasts like the nodosaurid Polacanthus.
Its presence here is fitting, as the first fossils of the genus come from the Wealden strata of the Isle of Wight. If written today, this title would be more appropriately called Mantellisaurus, which is the currently accepted name for the former I. atherfieldensis since 2007, when Greg Paul renamed the animal as part of a larger trend of bringing some sense to the traditional wastebasket-taxon status of Iguanodon.
Out of place in the early Cretaceous is Megalosaurus, which will probably always be part of a matched set with Iguanodon thanks to their status as founding members of the dinosauria. Problem is, it's a middle Jurassic beast. The book could be updated to include any of a number of scrappy theropods from the Wealden, perhaps Eotyrannus (I should note that a field guide to the Wealden was recently released, reviewed last month by Darren Naish).
Rourke titles close with brief sections on the scientific background of the story, describing the history of the relevant taxon's fossil discoveries and its place on the dinosaur family tree. Here, Ouranosaurus gets a rare cameo.
Overall, a respectable effort that sets its self apart from the glut of slapped-together dinosaur titles of the eighties. Plus, it gives us this majestic sight: the Iguanodon conga line.
Previous Rourke books featured here:
Triceratops (John Francis)
Pteranodon (Doreen Edwards)
Allosaurus (Doreen Edwards)