April 6, 2015
Scaly Spotted Feathered Frilled: How do we know what dinosaurs really looked like? by Catherine Thimmesh
Scaly Spotted Feathered Frilled:
How do we know what dinosaurs really looked like?
by Catherine Thimmesh
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Have you ever wondered how on earth we know what dinosaurs looked like? Catherine Thimmesh takes us from the early days when there were few fossils to modern times. She discusses the wide variety of things that paleoartists study ranging from the fossils themselves to modern animals and how they have to stay up on the latest finds. She also points out details in the various pieces of art work including:
- how do we know the dinosaurs traveled in groups (fossil foot prints)
- how do we know that they ran with their tails up off the ground (again with the foot prints)
- how do we know what facial expressions dino’s made (muscle evidence)
She also takes us through the history of dino knowledge and how that played into the art. You’ll note that I don’t list an illustrator above but that’s because there isn’t one illustrator in the book. Thimmesh has included the art work of many so that she can show us how the artwork has changed as our knowledge changed.
She includes historic images including Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins Iguanodon sketches. His dinosaurs look nothing like ours but that’s because of the scarce number of bones he had to study. Still, his sketches and other early art work fed into the popular enthusiasm for dinosaurs which funded additional discoveries which further educated the art work and so on.
She also explains why some early dinosaurs (remember the Brontosaurus) have disappeared.
From scale patterns to feathers and even coloration, Thimmesh demonstrates what we know and what is speculation on the part of the artist. This is the beauty of featuring the work of so many individuals. The reader gets to see how, using what we know right now, several artists have come up with different looks for the T. rex.
The book uses a picture book format combining words and texts. While preschoolers would appreciate the illustrations, the book is intended for readers aged 9 to 12. Young artists, scientists and dinosaur fans would all enjoy the in-depth look at this topic and in the classroom it would make a good jumping off point for discussions on science and how what we know changes over time.