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Posing as a 19th-century scientist's travel sketchbook, this entertaining hybrid mates the visual appeal of the Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady with a Jules Verne-like tale of Dinotopia, a land where dinosaurs and humans coexist. The scientist and his son travel around it, and the son grows up and falls in love. This unimaginative narrative exists mainly as a framework for the copious illustrations, which show breathtakingly exotic but impossible sights, such as a canyon city of people and flying dinosaurs, as well as amusing sketches of domestic scenes. The result is an enjoyable pastiche, full of visual references to cultures from Oz to Thailand and flavored with a Robert Fulghum-inspired philosophy: ``Observe, listen, and learn. Do one thing at a time'' (from the Code of Dinotopia). Though too superficial for the serious fantasy reader, this volume is great fun to browse through, and should find its way on to many coffee tables. 400,000 first printing; BOMC featured alternate; QPB selection; author tour. (Oct.)
Gr 4 Up-- Arthur Denison, a Victorian scientist, and his son Will are shipwrecked on an amazing island . Here, dinosaurs live in harmony with a colony of humans, made up of other marooned travelers and their descendants. Will and his father are fascinated by the technology of their new home. They visit a hatchery, a blacksmith in Volcaneum, and a city built on waterfalls. The boy is most impressed by the Skybax Riders, people who are trained to fly on winged reptiles. Deciding to join them, he goes through their rigorous training program. In the meantime, his father finds a route to the dinosaur underground, a mythic place referred to in old dinosaur tales. He returns to find his son has ``earned his wings,'' but his discoveries are saved for (one assumes) another book. This fairytale will capture the interests of older fantasy readers--those perhaps, who enjoy the ``Lord of the Rings'' trilogy (Houghton), or Lewis's ``Narnia'' series (Macmillan). Younger readers, too, will be enticed by the dramatic, full-color illustrations, which include both panoramic sweeps of the utopian cities and detailed sketches of Dinotopian contraptions. While the women are more active than their Victorian counterparts, the adventurers here are still Will and Dad. Also, the illustrations tend to portray nonwhite Dinotopians as exotics, a stereotype better left in the past. Overall, the success of this story depends upon readers' ability to accept these creatures as peaceful, intelligent herbivores. Advanced readers who find sharp-toothed carnivores more to their liking may prefer a visit to Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park (Knopf, 1990), for a not-so-tame tale also set on a dinosaur isle. --Cathryn A. Camper, Minneapolis Public Library