Fifty dinosaurs and kindred contemporaries display their hues in this large-format portrait gallery.
A greater mismatch between the pictures and the accompanying descriptive comments would be hard to imagine. Arranged in no discernable order one or two per spread, Sewell’s dinosaurs float benignly in static poses against white backgrounds. Figures mostly look flat and are roughly the same size, so there are no cues to relative scale. Rather than opening to display jagged dentifrices, mouths are usually closed, often set in small smiles, and the artist indicates details of scales, skin, and other features with just a perfunctory line or color change. Said colors sometimes make vivid contrasts—Velociraptor sports a downright garish mix of blood red and turquoise—but are for the most part pretty blends of hues. In contrast to the art’s weightless harmony, the narrative goes for the gusto: Ceratosaurus “was easily distinguishable by two devil horns, a fearsome nasal spike, a ridge of spikes down its back, and a set of huge gnashers designed for ripping apart the flesh of anything it came across.” Quetzalcoatlus “must have been a worrying sight, the size of a fighter jet wheeling round the sky.” References to “slow-footed” T. rex and “cunning” Utahraptor as well as a claim that Troodons “weren’t exactly rocket scientists” indicate a loose grasp of the difference between fact and speculation to boot.
Pretty but insubstantial. (Nonfiction. 8-10)