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