A dramatic portrait gallery of some of our planet’s former residents down through the eras, with pithy odes in rhymed or free verse.
Arranged chronologically from a Cambrian Period trilobite to the hairy Mammuthus of the Quaternary, Trueman’s 21 subjects loom majestically—sometimes, as in the case of the gore-spattered Dimetrodon or the giant shark Megalodon, in entirely too–close-up views. They are also rendered in such naturalistic detail (for all that some bear almost human expressions) many viewers are likely to flinch as each page is turned. In his short but vivid lines, Elliott generally offers good reasons to be cautious: “The bad news: Like a centipede. Eight feet long. Or more. / The good news: Arthropleura was an herbivore.” Or take saber-toothed Smilodon (please): “No compassion. / No tolerance. / No mercy. / No pity. / And definitely no / ‘Here, kitty, kitty, kitty.’ ” Though the poet generally reflects the visual immediacy of the images, he sometimes takes a broader view; the tadpolelike Astraspis of the early Ordovician is “One note at the beginning / Of a never-ending song,” and as for Tyrannosaurus rex, “even kings / are vanquished / when stars fall / from the sky.” Many of the informal facts and observations he adds at the end are just as memorably phrased.
Highlights from life’s last 544 million years infused with humor and wonder. (Picture book/poetry. 5-10)