________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 6 . . . . November 16, 2001

cover A Moment in Time With Albertosaurus.

Eric P. Felber, Phillip J. Currie, & Jan Sovak.
Calgary, AB: Troodon Productions/Red Deer Press, 1998.
47 pp, cloth, $17.95.
ISBN 0-9682512-1-8.

Subject Heading:
Albertosaurus-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 4-9 / Ages 9-14.

Review by Cora Lee.

** /4

cover A Moment in Time With Troodon.

Eric P. Felber, Phillip J. Currie, & Jan Sovak.
Calgary, AB: Troodon Productions/Red Deer Press, 1997
43 pp, cloth, $17.95.
ISBN 0-9682512-0-X.

Subject Heading:
Troodon-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 4-9 / Ages 9-14.

Review by Cora Lee.

** /4


When the last tyrannosaur disappeared around a corner in the trail, four Saurornitholestes broke cover and hesitantly approached the body stretched out next to the path. Sure at last of the giant's demise, one raptor let out a hideous shriek and leaped onto the carcass. Not far down the path, the matriarch heard and understood. There would be no going back this time.

Imagining the life of a long-dead, long-decayed dinosaur can't be easy, but it's what dinosaur paleontologists do daily. The results of their research have far-reaching meaning for academia, but have the potential to feed a tremendous public fascination as well. With A Moment in Time with Troodon and A Moment in Time with Albertosaurus, co-authors Philip J. Currie and Eric P. Felber offer their interpretation of a day in each dinosaur's life.

     The 48-page books are full of informative details: what Troodon or Albertosaurus (and their compatriots) looked like; where they lived; how they hunted, ate, fought, survived and died. The authors are scientists; Currie is a dinosaurian paleontologist and Curator of Dinosaurs at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology, while Felber is President of Troodon Productions and a geologist, and they bring to the books the full authority of their specialties. Detailed, action-oriented, colour illustrations by renowned natural history illustrator Jan Sovak dramatically play out scripts that follow the dinosaurs as they move through their day.

     A section titled "What Do We Really Know About [Troodon/Albertosaurus]?" follows, and presents the fossil and skeleton clues upon which each story is built. Photos accompany the fascinating histories of the dinosaur discoveries which could stand as books on their own. A glossary ends the book; while it does help the uninitiated keep track of the different dinosaurs and the terminology of the trade, some of the definitions contain words that themselves need explaining.

     As stories, the text suffers from some overwriting. Such trite expressions as "dropped in his tracks," "snapped like toothpicks" and "far from finished" mark the authors as amateurs. Overly dramatic scenes, particularly those depicting death or battle, make the text an easy target for parody as well: in Albertosaurus, for example, "A dizziness overpowered the matriarch But all her power was useless against this final foe. With her last breath she let out a mighty shriek. She looked up at the deadly sky once more before all went dark and she toppled over on her side." Similarly, Troodon ends rather ridiculously with sage speculation: "Did his eyes hold a trace of admiration for her prowess? Perhaps."

     The narrator takes the distant stance of the third person observer. This suits the dreamlike quality that suggests observation of a lost world, but, with no identifiable characters, tends to alienate the reader. A more consistent focus on one individual rather than the family or pack, with recognizable supporting characters, would strengthen the story and save the writers the arduous task of seeking ways to differentiate each beast.

     Making science both interesting and accessible to children is a challenge, often solved with the addition of a little drama. Albertosaurus and Troodon are informative books both, built on a brilliant concept, and written by experts with an intimate connection to the topic. These advantages are obscured, however, by a too-heavy larding of dramatic effect.

Recommended with reservations.

Cora Lee is a Vancouver writer and editor.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364