Could a Tyrannosaurus Play Table Tennis? by Andrew Plant

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Could a Tyrannosaurus Play Table Tennis? by Andrew Plant

Plant, Andrew. Could a Tyrannosaurus Play Table Tennis? Kane/Miller Book Publishers, 2006. ISBN 978-1929132973 32 pp. $

*****

Every child goes through the fascinated-by-dinosaurs stage, and this clever book will both delight and educate. Plant’s ABC book lists familiar species and new discoveries, with a pronunciation guide and definition for each name. A table incorporated into the border of each page lists facts such as period, habitat, size, and eating preference (herbivore, carnivore). The book is prefaced with a timeline of 4600 million years, depicted as a spiral that shows the duration and species of each era.

Opening with two children admiring a museum’s elegantly towering display of Tyrannosaurus bones, it is easy to imagine the book as a competitive silly dialogue between two children, each trying to top the other as each entry asks, “Could [dinosaur name:] [perform an activity:]?” In each case, the answer is a clear “no”–humorous illustrations show soccer balls impaled on horns, fishing line tangled around large limbs, canvases splattered and torn, crushed musical instruments, and mangled sports equipment. Creatures are infused with personality – a Deinonychus in a top hat brandishing a cane, a Xuanhanosaurus roaring into an X-ray, an Anchiceratops timidly balancing, elephantine, on a beach ball while holding an umbrella.

The dynamic illustrations are beautifully painted and carefully composed, varying in perspective and giving a snapshot feel to each image. Plant has fun with color, imagining these prehistoric beasts in earthy brown and green tones with brighter red, yellow, and blue accent markings in patterns of stripes and spots. An author’s note at the beginning explains that we can only imagine what dinosaur’s skins must have looked like.

The concept book also deals innovatively with size. Each dinosaur is drawn to scale and pictured with a familiar object. A Brachiosaurus is clearly much too large for a basketball courts regulation 10-foot hoops; a tiny Wannansaurus struggles to lift a barbell. And just in case the size scales aren’t clear, a final 2 page spread shows all the dinos, from smallest to largest, grinning fearsome toothy grins, in line to shake hands with the two humans, recognizable from the beginning of the book.

Concluding with a very short glossary of a few sports that the Australian author must have felt children around the world might not understand, a further reading list for other dinosaur fanatics is the only thing missing from this thoroughly entertaining title.

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