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Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins: An Illuminating History of Mr. Waterhouse Hawkins, Artist and Lecturer

Overview

Can you fathom a time when almost no one in the world knew what a dinosaur looked like?

That was true in the mid-nineteenth century, until a Victorian artist named Waterhouse Hawkins brought these ancient animals to life for all to see. Originally in his native England and later in New York City, he devoted over three decades to building the first life-sized models of dinosaurs, and he dazzled the world with his awe-inspiring creations.

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Overview

Can you fathom a time when almost no one in the world knew what a dinosaur looked like?

That was true in the mid-nineteenth century, until a Victorian artist named Waterhouse Hawkins brought these ancient animals to life for all to see. Originally in his native England and later in New York City, he devoted over three decades to building the first life-sized models of dinosaurs, and he dazzled the world with his awe-inspiring creations.

With style, spirit, and impeccable attention to detail, Barbara Kerley unearths a story consuming passion, triumph, loss, and courage — and ultimately, of an extraordinary legacy that lives on today. Brian Selznick celebrates this complex and fascinating individual through luminous and soul-stirring paintings that — apropos of his subject — from a visual masterpiece.

From the youngest dinosaur aficionados to those interested in art, or pioneering people, the unforgettable story of Waterhouse Hawkins and his dinosaurs had something to teach all of us about the importance of believing in oneself and following a dream.

The true story of Victorian artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, who built life-sized models of dinosaurs in the hope of educating the world about what these awe-inspiring ancient animals and what they were like.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
A masterful blend of artistic skill, scientific prowess, and impassioned theatrics lay at the core of Waterhouse Hawkins. A man of pure determination, he created the first life-size models of dinosaurs! This brilliant book is a fantastic nod to the genius of one man, and a glimpse into the beginning of an important era.

As a boy in England, Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins always wanted to be an artist. His passion led him to animals, and soon he was drawing and painting them with fervor. This eventually led to his true calling -- creating models of dinosaurs as they actually must have looked when they roamed the earth! With the help of scientist Richard Owen, he checked the fossil remains of dinosaurs against living animals and constructed a gigantic model. Among the first to witness his creation were Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, who reacted with pure amazement.

In order to impress England's leading scientists with his work, Waterhouse Hawkins staged a lavish New Year's Eve dinner party and hosted the gala inside the body of his model! He also wanted the public to learn about the dinosaurs and their history, so he built smaller models, illustrated books, and lectured on the subject. His fame spread to the United States, and he was invited to New York, where he began to create model dinosaurs for a proposed Paleozoic Museum in Central Park. However, a corrupt politician put an end to the project, and vandals later broke into Waterhouse Hawkins's workshop and destroyed his models. Though distraught, he moved on to Princeton, where he built skeletons and created paintings about life on earth in the age of the dinosaurs. Eventually, Waterhouse Hawkins returned to England and continued his work, some of which can still be seen in Crystal Palace Park.

Writer Barbara Kerley and illustrator Brian Selznick have weaved a spirited account of this largely forgotten man. Plenty of textual detail, research, and a good dose of wonderment make Kerley's narrative a delightful experience. And the awesome illustrations, which combine Waterhouse Hawkins's own grandeur with Selznick's talent for the bold and the beautiful, made the pages come to life. The fusion of scientific allure and sensational images is a stroke of brilliance. This phenomenal book stands as true testament to the devotion and power of an individual -- it would have made Waterhouse Hawkins proud. (Amy Barkat)

From the Publisher

Who could resist? Staring straight out from the handsome album-like cover is a slight man with a shock of white hair and an intense, intelligent gaze. Over his shoulder looms the enormous mouth of a dinosaur. This is perfectly designed to pique reader's curiosity with one of the strangest true stories dinsoaur lovers will ever read. The man is Waterhouse Hawkins, who, in Victorian England, devoted his life to making ordinary people aware of dinosaurs at a time when most had never heard of them and could not imagine what they looked like. Hawkins, an established author/illustrator of books on animal anatomy, estimated the scale of the dinosaurs from their bones, made clay models, erected iron skeletons with brick foundations and covered them over with cement casts to create dramatic public displays. Such was Hawkin's devotion to his work that he engaged the Queen's patronage, catered to the fathers of paleontology at a dinner party inside an iguanadon model, and was invited to bring his dinosaur models to Central Park. It was in New York that Hawkins's story turned grimly sad. Antagonizing Boss Tweed with some ill-chosen words, Hawkins thereafter found his dinosaurs smashed and buried beneath Central Park, where they remain today. The fascinating story, well documented in authoritative, readable author and illustrator notes, is supported by creative decisions in illustration, bookmaking, and design. Hawkins was a showman, and Selznick presents his story pictorially as high melodrama, twice placing the hero front stage, before a curtain revealing a glimpse of the amazing dinosaurs. turns of the page open onto electrifying, wordless, doble-page spreads. A boy who appears at the book's beginning and end (where he sits on a park bench in Central Park while fragment of the dinosaurs lie among the tree roots below) affects a touching circularity. Stunning.
---Kirkus Reviews, July 1st 2001 starred review

What a marvelous pairing: the life of the nineteenth-century British dinosaur maven Watehouse Hawkins and Selznick's richly evocative, Victorian inspired paintings. Hawkins had been drawing and sculpting animals from his childhood. As an adult he set to work trying to recreate what a living dinosaur looked like based on fossil remains. Hawkins' dinosaur sculptures still stand in Sydenham, England, a better fate than what happened to those he built in New York City. There, Hawkins ran afoul of Boss Tweed; children can thrill to the idea that broken pieces of Hawkins' dinosaurs still lie buried in Central Park. Kerley also regales her audience with the story of Hawkins' New Year's Eve dinner, with guests seated inside the shell of the iguanodon he was building. Selznick's art is wonderfully wrought, innovative in its choices, clever in what and how he chose to illustrate. Equally fantastic is the execution: oh, those dinosaurs! Extensive notes from the author and illustrator are clear enough even for younger children and provide a genuine sense of the thrill of research. Although many of Hawkins' dinosaur modles are now known to be inaccurate, the passion of his life and his single-minded pursuit of it rings loud and clear. Appealing on many levels, this will be a favorite dinosaur book for years to come.---GraceAnne A. DeCandido
--Booklist, September 1, 2001 starred review

Hawkins,a British artist who combined scientific observation with sculptorly imagination to create the earliest full-scale dinosaur reconstructions, receives fanciful biographical treatment in three 'ages' (chapters), corresponding to stages in his career. Kerley focuses on his commissions in England and the United States and on the destruction of his models--doubtless at the orders of New York's infamous Boss Tweed. Although there is much intrinsic interest in this aspect of Hawkins' story, dinophiles are here to see how Hawkins' interpolations stand the test of subsequent scholarship, and this ju

Publishers Weekly
One look at this amazing-but-true picture book introducing the little-known artist Hawkins and his dreams of dinosaurs, and kids may well forget about Jurassic Park. As a child growing up in 19th-century London, Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins discovered his passion: drawing and sculpting animal figures, especially prehistoric dinosaurs. His artistic talent and his goalAto build life-size models of dinosaurs envisioned from scientific fossilsAled him to work with noted anatomist Richard Owen and complete a special commission from Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, an installation of dinosaur statues, much of which still stands in contemporary Sydenham, England. During the project, Hawkins courted the scientific community by hosting a lavish New Year's Eve dinner party inside his life-size model of an iguanodon (the bill of fare is reproduced on the final page). Selznick (The Houdini Box, see p. 94) builds to the dramatic moment by showing readers a peek at giant reptilian toes through a parted curtain. Kerley (Songs of Papa's Island) leads readers into further exploration of Hawkins by presenting copious but never dull details of the stages of his life and works, including efforts in the U.S., thwarted by Boss Tweed. Throughout, she suffuses her text with a contagious sense of wonder and amazement. Selznick enthusiastically joins the excitement with his intricate compositions, capturing Hawkins's devotion to his art and depicting the dapper man with wild white hair as a spirited visionary and showman. The elegant design on tall pages gives the dinosaur models their due from various perspectives, and scenery of the period additionally grounds the work in historic context. Extensive author andillustrator notes denote the extensive (and fun) research both undertook for this extraordinary volume. Ages 6-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
In the mid-nineteenth century, Waterhouse Hawkins, with the help of a scientist, built full-size models of dinosaurs at a time when no one knew more about what they looked like than their bones. Hawkins was also a master showman who inspired awe and excitement with his lectures and his models in the Crystal Palace in London. But in America, his great plans for a Paleozoic Museum in Central Park ended in political turmoil. When vandals destroyed and buried his reconstructions, he was dispirited but continued to build, lecture and promote dinosaurs until his death. Selznick's melodramatically colored illustrations, mostly double-page spreads with many period details, convey the opulence of Victorian England, including a visit from the queen. Large pages, elegantly designed with thin colored borders on creamy paper, add to the importance. The models are presented as Hawkins conceived them, as demonstrated by notes about the history and extensive research done by both author and illustrator. 2001, Scholastic Press, $16.95. Ages 6 to 12. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
Gr 2-5-A picture-book presentation about the efforts of Hawkins to erect the first life-sized models of dinosaurs on both sides of the Atlantic. A Victorian artist and sculptor, he was well respected in England, and his reputation insured his being invited to construct replicas of creatures no one had ever seen and to unveil them at the newly constructed Crystal Palace. Kerley's spirited text and Selznick's dramatic paintings bring Hawkins's efforts into clear focus, including his frustrating experience in New York City when Boss Tweed set vandals loose in his workshop. Both author and illustrator provide copious notes of biographical material delineating Hawkins's works, and Selznick's trips to Philadelphia to view a rare scrapbook that is the model for this book's design and to London to see the original Crystal Palace models. Painstakingly researched, written and illustrated with careful attention to detail, this book presents the fervor and spirit of a dedicated, little-known individual whose conceptions-however erroneous by today's discoveries-astounded the minds and stirred the imaginations of scientists then involved in the actual birth of paleontology. A distinguished book in every way.-Patricia Manning, formerly at Eastchester Public Library, NY Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Who could resist? Staring straight out from the handsome album-like cover is a slight man with a shock of white hair and an intense, intelligent gaze. Over his shoulder looms the enormous mouth of a dinosaur. This is perfectly designed to pique reader's curiosity with one of the strangest true stories dinosaur lovers will ever read. The man is Waterhouse Hawkins, who, in Victorian England, devoted his life to making ordinary people aware of dinosaurs at a time when most had never heard of them and could not imagine what they looked like. Hawkins, an established author/illustrator of books on animal anatomy, estimated the scale of the dinosaurs from their bones, made clay models, erected iron skeletons with brick foundations and covered them over with cement casts to create dramatic public displays. Such was Hawkins's devotion to his work that he engaged the Queen's patronage, catered to the fathers of paleontology at a dinner party inside an iguanodon model, and was invited to bring his dinosaur models to Central Park. It was in New York that Hawkins's story turned grimly sad. Antagonizing Boss Tweed with some ill-chosen words, Hawkins thereafter found his dinosaurs smashed and buried beneath Central Park, where they remain today. The fascinating story, well documented in authoritative, readable author and illustrator notes, is supported by creative decisions in illustration, bookmaking, and design. Hawkins was a showman, and Selznick presents his story pictorially as high melodrama, twice placing the hero front stage, before a curtain revealing a glimpse of the amazing dinosaurs. Turns of the page open onto electrifying, wordless, double-page spreads. A boy who appears at the book'sbeginning and end (where he sits on a park bench in Central Park while fragments of the lost dinosaurs lie among the tree roots below) affects a touching circularity. Stunning. (Nonfiction. 5-10)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780439114943
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/1/2001
  • Pages: 48
  • Sales rank: 131,536
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: AD550L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.38 (w) x 12.28 (h) x 0.41 (d)

Meet the Author


Barbara Kerley's award-winning biographies—including WHAT TO DO ABOUT ALICE? and THE EXTRAORDINARY MARK TWAIN (ACCORDING TO SUSY), both illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham, and THE DINOSAURS OF WATERHOUSE HAWKINS and WALT WHITMAN: WORDS FOR AMERICA, both illustrated by Brian Selznick—are consistently praised for their lively prose, meticulous research, and artistic presentation style. Kerley lives in Portland, Oregon. You can visit her online at www.barbarakerley.com.

In addition to The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick is the illustrator of the Caldecott Honor winner, The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins, and The New York Times Best Illustrated Walt Whitman: Words for America, both by Barbara Kerley, as well as the Sibert Honor Winner When Marian Sang, by Pam Muñoz Ryan, and numerous other celebrated picture books and novels. Brian has also worked as a set designer and a puppeteer. When he isn’t traveling to promote his work all over the world, he lives in San Diego, California, and Brooklyn, New York.

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 16, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Can you imagine a time when no one knew what a dinosaur looked like?

    In 1853, almost no one knew what a dinosaur looked like. No one had ever mounted a complete dinosaur skeleton, and who could be expected to imagine what these strange creatures would have looked like with muscles, skin, teeth, eyes, tails, and feet all in their proper places from just a heap of bones? This engaging children's book is the story of the Victorian artist who, with the help of renowned scientist Richard Owen, would bring dinosaurs to life for the people around him.

    The story connects Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins' early love of drawing and sculpting animals as a child with the career he built as an adult of designing, building, and lecturing about dinosaurs. In extremely readable prose, Barbara Kerley describes the process Owen and Hawkins used to decide what the dinosaurs probably looked like, as well as the method Hawkins used to translate those designs into his life-size statues.

    Although this is a rather long story for a four-year-old, it is full of interesting anecdotes, such as the New Year's Eve party Waterhouse Hawkins held inside his model Iguanodon, the massive celebration that marked the début of the dinosaur models at the Crystal Palace in London in 1854, and the way Boss Tweed shut down Hawkins' attempt to build similar models to put on display in Central Park in New York. All beautifully illustrated by Brian Selznick, who based many of his illustrations on a rare scrapbook containing photographs and original drawings of the models that may have been created by Waterhouse Hawkins himself.

    Perhaps the bit that I liked the most is the fact that the dinosaurs Waterhouse Hawkins created can still be seen today in Crystal Palace Park in Sydenham. Can anyone say road trip?

    (Review originally published on my blog--Caterpickles: Scientific and Linguistic Engagement with a 4 Year Old Mind)

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  • Posted May 25, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    WOW!!

    This book is fascinating! The illustrations are phenomenal. Brian Selznick has become my favorite illustrator and you will be impressed when you see this book. This true story is amazing and Barbara Kerley does an excellent job writing this book. If you want to know what lies beneath the surface of Central Park, you have to read this book! Amazing story of Waterhouse Hawkins, told and illustrated at its finest! Great for any age!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2006

    An Amazing Story!

    Science, History, Mystery, Art...this book has it all! Waterhouse Hawkins was an artist and a teacher with a tremendous goal, both figuratively and literally. He wanted to show the world what dinosaurs looked like. This wonderfully illustrated, well told story should be in every school's library. The author and illustrator's notes in the back are great!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 16, 2004

    Awesome Picture/Informational Selection

    Wonderful and almost unbelievable biography about the first man to bring dinosaurs to life in sculpture form. Colorful, rich hues bring the story to life. Great blend of history, science, art, and mystery! Would be an interesting basis for an interdisciplinary unit of study.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2001

    Beautifully Executed--And Readable!

    This book is not only historically accurate, but it also contains some of the most wonderful illustrations I've seen in any recent children's book. It's a must for any classroom or home library-- do it for the children!

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