The book was written by children's author Vezio Melgari and illustrated by Giovanni Giannini and Violayne Hulné. There's sadly no indication how Giannini and Hulné collaborated on the illustrations, which strongly resemble the work of Richard Scarry. Melgari's story is about a group of young animals - mainly of the canine persuasion, with a cat or two thrown in the mix - who are taken on a virtual reality trip through time by the Professor Alfred S. Wolfsbane, "specialist in several sciences and wizard of the computer world." It was the nineties! Of course, for our purposes, we're more concerned with how the dinosaurs are presented than we are in the story.
The first trip is to visit the "floating giants," AKA sauropods. Though Apatosaurus is depicted in its classic mid-century habit of standing half-submerged in water, it is referred to by the correct name, and the text even makes reference to the obsolescence of "Brontosaurus". The spread is a good introduction to the book's primary color aesthetic and odd mix of outmoded and contemporary ideas, as well as its admirable dedication to including smaller fauna in the mix, generally well labeled, as in the fish swimming around the sauropods' legs here.
Next up are various hadrosaurs, singled out for their "strange heads", since the variety of hadrosaur headgear has always been a popular focal point of picture books. Most interesting here is "Anatosaurus", which by the late nineties had been officially folded into Edmontosaurus for about a decade. It's standing in a familiar Knightian bipedal position (and creeping up on a tree fern in an unsavory way). The landscape combines the old and new again, repeating the old trope of barren, volcano-populated landscapes but also nodding to the Cretaceous flourishing of angiosperms.
Thyreophorans get their spotlight next. Stegosaurus is featured front and center, as expected, rearing on two legs and munching on foliage, an old tradition. Velociraptor makes an appearance, menaced by Ankylosaurus and high-tailing it back to Asia (and presumably its own time, a couple million years previous). At least it's recognizable as a velociraptor-ish animal, rather than a generic post-JP raptor. Kentrosaurus is stripped of its teeth, which was never the case; though its original description only included a single tooth, and only fragments of teeth or emerging teeth thereafter, I'm not sure that toothless Kentrosaurus was ever a big theory - gladly corrected if it was.
Appropriately enough, Triceratops takes center stage for the ceratopsians, with fellow old standby horn-faces Monoclonius and Styracosaurus playing back up. Check out the pretty-well-rendered noggin morphology of the baby Triceratops, huddled in the lower right-hand corner.
The carnivores, appropriately enough, are represented by those twin titans of terror, Tyrannosaurus and... Iguanodon. Yeah, Iguanodon, tearing into Mosasaurus. Prof. Wolfsbane calls it "one of the largest carnivores... among the land dinosaurs," only bested by Tyrannosaurus. I don't know where this came from, other than Louis Figuier's famous, anachronistic Megalosaurus v. Iguanodon battle, in which it can safely be presumed that Iguanodon is merely fighting for its life, not trying to nom on its opponent. If anyone knows of any other depictions of a predatory Iguanodon, please let me know what I've missed. It's almost as if Melgari smooshed Megalosaurus and Iguanodon into a single wuzzlesaur, with the stereotypical skulking gait and predatory nature of the former and the thumb-spike of the latter. I love the glee on the face of Rexy, as if he's just thrilled that Iguanodon has changed teams and wants in on the action.
The book's pterosaurs were cast in the old-school, leathery-demon mold, with little attention paid to scale or temporal accuracy. And hey, since we're at the seaside, Ichthyornis prepares for a water landing, and there's a typical Hesperornis. Look at it dive.
Archaeopteryx, in classic sparkleraptor garb, is relegated to a spread dedicated to various birds (and a couple tapirs). It's presumably the Cenozoic now, therefore we're green and fresh and inviting rather than volcanic and barren. Palaelodus stands in the background, pink and misspelled. Prof. Wolfsbane's son Walt has gone missing, and some of his supposed friends choose to imagine him chased down by a ravenous Tyrannosaurus, menaced by Mastodonosaurus, or best of all, fed by Brachiosaurus to Mosasaurus. Poor Prof. Wolfsbane, I can only imagine his reaction.
The last spread I'll share is the "record breakers," in which dubious facts and stale old canards are transmitted to a willing and impressionable junior readership. Here, we learn that Allosaurus was the "fiercest and most voracious" dinosaur, because science, and it certainly does seem excited by those jammie dodgers. Ouranosaurus gets to have the longest crest, Tanystropheus is lumped in with dinosaurs because why not, and golly: Composognathus is the size of a chicken.
So to sum up: whimsical illustrations that combine old views, somewhat contemporary knowledge, and head-scratching inaccuracies. Had Melgari gone with a lighter adventure narrative that didn't purport to be an encyclopedia-lite, poetic license would have been understandable, but instead we have a book that is mostly memorable for its bizarre un-facts.