The illustrations on the cover, for example, are actually pretty good from a purely artistic perspective; the shading and texturing, in particular, are rather impressive. Of course, the animals themselves are pretty bizarre - just check out zombie-hands Droopy the T. rex, and the Triceratops with legs that don't seem to have any muscles...or joints. The Apatosaurus, meanwhile, is the typical hump-backed Discount Value Pack Sauropod. It's a decent indicator of what's to come.
I'm rather fond of the work of one particular artist in LmtyaD; Niroot, too, has expressed a liking, and you definitely should listen to him, 'cos he's a professional artist and everything. The artist - let's chauvinistically presume they're male and name them Jambo van de Apenheul - makes excellent use of a deceptively diverse earthy colour palette and achieves some quite lovely, subtle patterning and texturing. Of course, he also draws Barney-like tyrannosaurs with tiny heads, which are a little distracting, but one can't help but feel that van de Apenheul could have made a very decent dinosaur artist, if only he'd had the right guidance.
Van de Apenheul is clearly also behind this illustration of Melanorosaurus, here mislabelled as Melanosaurus (which was actually a lizard, or so says Wikipedia - and who am I to question Wikipedia?). The slightly later Fabrosaurus, another one of those genera based on teeth that palaeontologists just love to spend all of their spare time sorting out, is shown to demonstrate how greatly even early dinosaurs could contrast in size. Unlike Melanorosaurus, poor Fabrosaurus is even dwarfed by its own name. The basal sauropodomorph is considerably less chunky and advanced-looking when shown in art these days, but hey, at least it's out there on the land. Quite unlike...
....this unfortunate brachiosaur, who seems to have wandered out to sea by accident. That's what having a tiny brain will do for you.
Back on the beach, and this depiction of Ornitholestes illustrates the pitfalls of combining copies of different artists' versions of the same animal. The animal in the background appears to be based on Giovanni Caselli's bird-nabber (itself a riff on Charles R Knight's original), while the individual in the middleground is based on Bernard Robinson's work. Consequently, they look like different species, with the Caselli-like creature sporting (more accurately) a smaller head and a reduced 'thumb' on its hand, while the Robinson-esque animal has more obvious lizardly 'lips' and a rather derisory expression on its face.
About halfway through the book, the artwork takes something of a turn for the worse - certainly in terms of depicting believable-looking creatures. Although T. rex isn't described as the bumbling silent movie comedian of some early '80s books, the artwork doesn't do the 'King of the Tyrant Lizards' too many favours; the above image could be a poster for Attack of the Killer Granny Smiths from Outer Space. Still, perspective is tricky when you have limited access to 3D references, and at least its head is the right sort of shape, and doesn't resemble a rubbery Halloween mask.
Oh boy. Hey, is anyone else reminded of one of those full-body dinosaur costumes, in which the wearer's polyester-wrapped legs are distractingly visible? Well, if the toothy front end isn't being waggled in your face, of course.
In a similar vein...ah, I love retro ankylosaurs, and this Euoplocephalus (formerly known as Ankylosaurus...wait, what!?) is simply a magnificent example; a sceptical-looking armadillo with barely-there legs and a tail terminating in an oven mitt. Meanwhile, Palaeoscincus (i.e. Edmontonia) is particularly cross, having lost the majority of its tail - which I'm quite sure has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that the tail was hidden behind another animal in Caselli's illustration.
Just as bizarre is this tottering Compsognathus, which resembles the bastard offspring of a hen and Dale Russell's 'Dinosauroid' (the tail was shortened during adolescence, you see) - rather fitting, given that a hen is mentioned in the text. The style is somewhat Caselli-esque here, too, with the thoroughly disgruntled face resembling that on Caselli's Compsognathus "corallestris". Thankfully, the flipper hands were left in the '70s, where they belong.
And finally...the anonymous author is having no truck with your reprehensibly unscientific questions. Every fossil find, from a 75% complete skeleton of Spinosaurus with preserved gut contents and eggs containing dainty spinosaur embryos, down to a tiny ammonite that's fallen from a Dorset cliff into someone's ice cream cone, is exciting to somebody.
Pffft. Cop-out. Bernard Robinson-esque Allosaurus is not impressed.
Many thanks to Adam S Smith for letting me borrow this book, a childhood favourite of his (although he nevertheless brought the disparity in illustration quality to my attention). Adam's a palaeontologist with a particular affinity for plesiosaurs and other marine reptiles. Check out his Plesiosaur Directory website and, of course, the Dinosaur Toy Blog.