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How Do We Know What Dinosaurs Really Looked Like?

by Catherine Thimmesh

Age Range: 11 - 13

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-547-99134-4
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Thimmesh (Lucy Long Ago, 2009) again explores the border between science and speculation in this thoughtful look at how paleontologists and, in particular, “paleoartists” reconstruct prehistoric creatures from fossil evidence.

It’s “guesswork,” admits one artist. “But it’s guesswork based on science.” The author explains how surviving evidence—including fossilized bone fragments, plant matter, bits of skin and, recently, feathers, prehistoric “trackways” (preserved pathways of dino footprints) and similar physical features in modern animals—is assembled and interpreted by scientists. She also traces the evolution of dino art, from Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins’ fanciful reconstructions of heavy-bodied giant lizards to today’s images of quick, deft, graceful creatures. In support, examples of Hawkins’ approximations and the once-authoritative dinosaur paintings of Charles R. Knight from the first half of the 20th century contrast sharply with more detailed and dramatic scenes, often of the same dinosaurs, by Greg Paul and other currently active artists the author has interviewed. Sketch pages, alternative color patterns on the same model dino, and facing images of a Deinonychus before and after the discovery of fossilized feathers provide further insight into paleoart’s methods, challenges and rewards.

Required reading for serious dinophiles. (biographical appendix, source list, glossary, index) (Nonfiction. 11-13)