Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Russian interlude

What's all this then? Well, I was recently contacted by Dave Hone, well-known palaeontologist, blogger, and exuberant fellow. Dave and I have met a few times, and he even lent me a pile of his old books on one such occasion. This time, Dr Dave had another treat for me. In a letter sealed with wax and carefully delivered by a dashing man in a hat, he had written:
"Dearest Marc,

I do hope this letter finds you well. On a recent field trip to the badlands of somewhere-or-other, one of my students mentioned a glorious 1990s dinosaur book filled with brightly coloured, haphazardly proportioned and occasionally obviously plagiarised dinosaurs, and I had to think of you. Please find a series of photographs enclosed.

Cordially yours,

Dr David Hone."
 Or he might have just sent me an e-mail. But check it out - Russian vintageish dinosaur art! Hurrah.

Dating from 1999, B MNP ANHO3ABPOB is partly a straightforward, factual book about dinosaurs, and partly a puzzle/activity book with wordsearches, colouring pages, and amusing/disturbing chimeric animals (but more on that later). The illustrations draw obvious inspiration from the classics (Burian, mostly), but also from other sources. That jolly Triceratops, for example, is somewhere in between a Mark Hallett painting and a Dinamation robot. Like many dinosaur books from the '90s, it has a curious mix of the old and the new...but errs towards the old.

The fun begins on the title page, as a lo-o-ong Stegosaurus (how many plates?) faces off against a Generic Theropod (we may presume Allosaurus), while Pteranodon circle overhead because, well, you've got to have Pteranodon.

The book features the typical tour back in time, with a charming chart illustrating the changing fauna through the ages - complete with what appears to be a phytosaur, Paraceratherium, and a suitably sparkleraptor-style Archaeopteryx. On the right of the spread we have that Triceratops again, this time accompanied by a baby. D'awww.

The sauropods in this book have some seriously strange stuff going on, mostly pertaining to stumpy, sprawling limbs and snake-like bodies. In particular, the apatosaur on the right appears to be slithering about the place in an especially serpentine fashion. I do quite like the rather lairy orange on that Diplodocus, mind you, even if it doesn't really suit the conventionally Burianesque plain, wrinkly body. Stick some spines, dewlaps and all-round disc brakes on there, and we'd be onto a winner.

Further Burian-derivatives appear in the form of Sexy Rexy (above), reminiscent of the great man's Tarbosaurus. There's a definite perspective fudge going on here - as if the artist drew in Rexy and the top half of the hadrosaur, then realised they'd made the hadrosaur a little too diminutive. Either that, or Rexy's picking up the poor ornithopod with just one of his supposedly puny arms (although that shadow suggests otherwise). Either way, things aren't looking good for the blue guy - there are ribs on show and the Dino Damage piece has been lost down the back of the sofa. Rexy, on the other hand, is thoroughly enjoying himself.

And on the right...there's an Ankylosaurus. Love those backward-sweeping head horns.

While the book does feature those Mesozoic 'others' (token ichthyosaur, token plesiosaur, and bloody Pteranodon), they share a spread with an ornithomimosaur for reasons that elude me. Mostly because I don't speak Russian, in spite of the fact that I drank an awful lot of a stereotypically Russian beverage while at university. Noteworthy: the Pteranodon is again rather Burianesque, but with stunted wings, while a charming ammonite is illustrated alongside the ichthyosaur. You know, there's a giant concrete ammonite stuck on a roundabout in a town not too far from me. I should take a photo sometime.

As I've previously mentioned, the book features fun games and things to do, in addition to the educational bits. The above spread appears to be a board game of some sort, and is rather reminiscent of a game that I had as a child. Based on the positioning of the arrows, it appears that friendly dinosaurs (such as the amused-looking hadrosaur, the sauropod, and the Dachshund-stegosaur) help you on your way, while pointy-faced carnivores send you scurrying back towards the CTAPT.

You know, that plesiosaur's clearly outgrown his pond. Should've moved to Scotland, waited for a certain glacial lake to form millions of years later, and then jumped on in there.

All this, and I haven't yet mentioned the name of Dave's student, the one who actually owns the book! For shame. Thank you, Anastasia Doronina. Your dot-to-dot and colouring skills (as seen above) are without par.

There's something quite wonderful about the way children inevitably give carnivorous dinosaurs (and sabre-toothed stinky mammals!) blood-stained teeth. I mean, it's a bit of a shame that Anastasia didn't manage to complete this page, but I do appreciate the pretty flower, speculative ceratopsian frill patterning and allusions to horrible, bloody violence.

And finally...while these creatures wouldn't look too out of place in some of the more bargain basement dinosaur books out there, I'm quite certain this is a puzzle exercise with the aim being to identify which animals have been combined to produce these...things. So yes, they're deliberately wrong, which always takes away some of the fun. Nevertheless, I think they're brilliant, especially the Godzilla-like stegotheropod, the plesiosaur with sauropod legs, and the Pteranodon/bird. A lot of them resemble some of the more hideous cheapy dinosaur toys out there, especially the Pteranodon, which I'm pretty sure I owned as a child. Wonderful.

Many thanks again to Anastasia and Dave for sharing this one!

LATE UPDATE: Meanwhile, somewhere in Dinosaur Provincial Park...

While the 'letter' from Dave was an obvious joke, it is true that the matter of this book came up while Dave and his students (including Anastasia) were out in the field. Dave's sent me a photo from the trip, depicting a lovely stretch of Dinosaur Provincial Park.


  1. I should also add a thanks to my colleague Rob Knell who photographed the book for me and saving me a ton of effort.

    And yes, I love the stego-theropod too. :)

    1. That last page is pretty unique. It's like the Mesozoic version of the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender.



    1. Haha, thank you. The 'transliteration' was just a joke, of course, but I'm grateful for the translation!

    2. Ooh, let's try doing it the other way!



    3. Mike beat me to it but I was also going to say something about your "transliteration". I know it was in jest but substituting an 'A' for a "delta" (ok, really a 'de') was crossing a line!

      I'll add that the two generic creatures at the bottom of page 4 are labelled as "Thecodonts" and the apatosaur on p7 as "Brontosaurus". Sorry, did you say that the book was published in 1999 or 1969?

    4. Surely you wanted to say "In the World of Dinosaurs"? ;-) (the title literally translates to "In World Dinosaurian")

      That said, most wonderful Brontoslug I've seen in a while - bonus for actually calling it "Brontosaur" in a 90's book. I also never expected to ever see an Elasmosaurus done wrong in this specific way. Look at those tiny forelimbs! Adorable.
      Speaking of adorable, putting perspective into, well, perspective, that baby Triceratops is closer to a man-child Triceratops in size. I mean, look how far in the background it is.

    5. Whoops, you are correct. I even knew that but typed it wrong.

  3. You're more than welcome! :)
    I am really glad you enjoyed the book, it's poorly constructed/plagiarized content, and of course, my 'outstanding' colouring skills.
    Also, thank you to Dave Hone who took such an interest in the book in the first place.

    Anastasia Doronina

  4. "You know, that plesiosaur's clearly outgrown his pond. Should've moved to Scotland, waited for a certain glacial lake to form millions of years later, and then jumped on in there."

    Plesiosaurs are so 1975. With it's long neck, aquatic tendencies, and twin humps, I think it's perfectly plain that nessie is a late-surviving Spinosaurus.

  5. I'd like to say that the little sauropod silhouette in the corner of the cover is Sibbick's Alamosaurus.

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  7. Let me join the club of pterobird owners! I had one just like the one on the photo, with the black markings. Funny how toys like that can travel - I live in Estonia and I think that I got mine from a second-hand shop. As a juvenile dinosaur fan I recall being frustrated, because I had no pterosaurs in my collection back then, but this one...was clearly some form of a bird-hybrid judging by the feathers.

    I gave up trying to pretend it was a reptile, but in good news it lived out a long and illustrious career as a phoenix.

  8. "In particular, the apatosaur on the right appears to be slithering about the place in an especially serpentine fashion."

    The oddest thing about this is that in an otherwise terrible illustration, they've got the distinctive apatosaur neck just about as right as I've ever seen it. I wonder where that part was lifted from?


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