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


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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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

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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)

School Library Journal
Gr 2–5—Today a basic knowledge of dinosaurs is common, but in the early 1800s scientists were just beginning to discover odd, oversized bones and draw conclusions, many of them erroneous. In 1853, London artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins decided to educate and enthrall the public by sculpting life-sized dinosaur models. He even held a dinner party inside one of his iguanodon sculptures! Barbara Kerley's true story (Scholastic, 2001) chronicles the artist's achievements, providing information about his life, his successes, and his calamitous encounter with Boss Tweed in New York City. While Jonathan Pryce reads the story with expression and vigor, Brian Selznick's rich, Caldecott Honor-winning illustrations are scanned, with minor animation added. The story is fascinating and the illustrations are dramatic. Original music and background sounds augment the production. The interviews with the author and illustrator nicely round out the production, providing interesting information about how artists and authors work to create their final products, the value of libraries, and the excitement of finding and sharing information with a new generation; photos of the actual Waterhouse sculptures in England are included. Read-along subtitles are options. The interviews greatly increase curriculum application possibilities.—Teresa Bateman, Brigadoon Elementary School, Federal Way, WA
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)
Children's Literature - Tiffany Torbeck
Waterhouse Hawkins was the first man to build life-size dinosaur models and his story is both entertaining and heartbreaking. Hawkins was a showman, and this is reflected in the regal narrating style of Pryce. He held a dinner inside one of his models on New Year's Eve, and the drawing depicting this event is made all the more delightful by the background music and narration. He built huge models of dinosaurs for Queen Victoria, which still stand and are drawn with impressive detail, and he was commissioned to build dinosaurs in America but was thwarted by Boss Tweed. The music and tone for this scene was perfect—filled with desperation and longing. But Hawkins could not be stopped and he continued to work and teach. Although later discoveries made his models obsolete, his work first showed dinosaurs to the people, and those accomplishments cannot be overlooked. This is a loving look at an artist that lived too long in the shadows. The text, illustrations and narration work in harmony and will delight readers. Extra notes and interviews from both the author and illustrator are included in the recording. Public and school libraries need to include this book plus CD kit to their collection. Reviewer: Tiffany Torbeck
Children's Literature - Joella Peterson
This is a digital retelling of the book The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins: An Illuminating History of Mr. Waterhouse Hawkins, Artist and Lecturer by the same author and illustrator, but here, readers can watch the twenty-minute story on their televisions. The story is of Waterhouse Hawkins, who along with scientist Richard Owen, took fossils and bones of dinosaurs and created the first life-sized models that people could see in order to comprehend what a dinosaur was. The people of England were so delighted with finally understanding just what those fossils and bones were from that Mr. Hawkins became well known around the world. He even worked for a number of years in the United States on dinosaur projects here. This DVD has still illustrations from the original book but it also includes some animations to help keep viewers interested. For those who wish to read along, the closed caption option is available. The back of the DVD cover also has some information for presenting this DVD to students (although the fact that the summary refers to the "King and Queen of England" when really Queen Victoria and Prince Albert are the ones referred to mean that teachers should read this information thoroughly before using it). All in all, this is a good introduction to Mr. Hawkins and the artist/scientists of his era. Reviewer: Joella Peterson
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780545196970
  • Publisher: Weston Woods Studios, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/1/2011
  • Age range: 7 - 10 Years

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