|John Conway's bubble-headed Allosaurus, as featured in All Your Yesterdays.|
Unfortunately for me, the inimitable Dr Mark Witton, palaeontologist and illustrator extraordinaire, has already produced a blog post that makes any effort from me largely redundant. Of course, that's not going to stop me pumping out a few words, but if you want the definitive verdict, head over to Mark's blog, if you haven't already (and you probably have). I'll be keeping it brief.
Essentially, I agree with Mark Witton (a statement that I plan on putting on a t-shirt - hopefully he won't betray us all, like that Clegg guy). All Your Yesterdays, like its predecessor, is bloody marvellous for the most part. The quality of the artwork may see-saw a bit, but the good stuff really is right up there - with the likes of Emily Willoughby and Raven Amos, you can't go far wrong.
If I am to have any beef with the book - and believe me, it would be so little beef that you couldn't squeeze it between a pair of strangely sugary buns and bundle it with a cheap toy - then it would be with the fact that not every entry meets the All Yesterdays remit. There are some reconstructions that, like McLoughlin's ceratopsians, might appear plausible at first (if outlandish), but are contradicted by fossil evidence. (Naturally, I don't wish to name names - it's hardly as if the artists were being paid for these pieces.) These are occasionally recognised as such and defended on the grounds that they stir up discussion, which indeed they do, but one can't help but think of more suitable entries that may have been excluded.
By the same token, while I did enjoy the inclusion of a number of 'retro speculative' pieces - imagined wrong reconstructions by hypothetical past palaeoartists - they could've done with being given a separate section, much like the 'All Todays' section of All Yesterdays. That's a real nitpick, mind you, and I can scarcely quibble with any format that sees room for the inclusion of Lew Lashmit's hilariously well-observed "Georgosaurus".
Commenting on the art more broadly, there were a few too many instances of prehistoric animals being dressed up as extant ones, a practice that has seemingly grown more prevalent in light of All Yesterdays. Of course, Kosemen and Conway's work featured nothing of the sort, and with good reason - such images are jarring, and often end up looking like dinosaurs wearing adorable California pampered pooch outfits.
Elsewhere, there were a few odd turns in the text - while Alvaro Rozalen's Epidexipteryx was a stunning piece, was the depiction of the animal as arboreal really that much of a break from the norm? While I admittedly have some difficulty putting Luis Rey's memorable depiction aside, it's nevertheless a struggle to remember a reconstruction of it "bimbling about on the forest floor".
Nevertheless, this is a sterling (and free!) collection of work, and may introduce the more ignorant reader (such as I) to a host of lesser-known artists that are just as worthy of attention as those appearing in the likes of Dinosaur Art. It's also heartening to know of the number of highly talented palaeoartists who are out there, and - what's more - willing to be imaginative and daring for a project such as this. In light of this book, and of the legions of dedicated, passionate dino-artists it represents, there really isn't any excuse for publishers to be churning out kids' books full of godawful CG clag. Call me naive, but I must nevertheless insist: COMMISSION THESE PEOPLE.