Tony T-Rex’s Family Album
Mike Benton and Rob Hodgson
Thames & Hudson
The stream of dinosaur books is never ending and it’s tricky to find new angles but who better than vertebrate palaeontology professor Mike Benton to come up with a novel way of presenting one of children’s favourite topics.
Using Tony-T-Rex as dinosaur family album writer, readers are provided with rip-roaring authentic information about dinosaurs from the tyrannosaurus’ mouth. And Tony really does grab the readers’ interest and grips them between those 20cm long ridged gnashers of his throughout.
First of all he digs deep, unearthing for us just how a dead dinosaur becomes fossilised and how scientists such as the prof. differentiate between a dinosaur and a ginormous lizard. We’re then plunged back 201 million years to the Jurassic Period when dinosaurs rose to power.
Next it’s time to introduce the creatures themselves, starting in the UK with Megalosaurus Big Liz, one of the first dinosaurs and the first to be discovered, surprisingly by one, William Buckland who had no idea of the existence of dinosaurs, mistaking his find for a massive lizard. Happily though scientists soon identified differences between dinos. and lizards.
Thereafter, we travel the world meeting a host of awesome, mind-blowing relations of Tony’s, each of which has a funky name and an extraordinary body.
There’s Tony’s distant ancestor pigeon sized Crash-Test Dex (aka) Epidexipteryx with its long claws and sharp buck teeth. Dex had to perfect tree scrambling for it was a favourite nibble for young dinos with near ground level noses.
We meet the familiar Diplodocus (Dippy herein), Cowboy Spike (Stegosaurus) and then it’s Cruella the Flesh-Eater hailing from Portugal, with 70 dagger-like teeth just right for attacking unsuspecting stegosaurs and diplodocuses – EEEK!
Big Bellied Bill – Tony’s great-great-great-grandpa is memorable for his insatiable appetite for leaves that made him one of the heaviest ever land animals; unsurprisingly he suffered from horrendous wind – PHOOOAH!
It’s impossible to mention all Tony’s Cretaceous relatives here but the fossil of winged Flighty Aunt Nyx is extinct proof of a dinosaur with the ability to fly.
Moving forward to the Cretaceous Period (between 145 and 66 million years ago) we meet another creature with the ability to propel itself through the air: part lizard, part bird, Sinornithosaurus or Crouching Glider, with its alarmingly long teeth and upper jaw pocket was, reputedly, a terror.
I had a good giggle at Dead-Weight Diana (Titanosaurus), Tony’s Argentinian cousin, the heaviest dinosaur in the world, scoffer of the trees’ topmost, juciest leaves. Roamers these, for fossils have been found on every one of Earth’s continents.
You simply must meet the most elegant of all the dinosaurs, Siegfried the Swan (Olorotitan), which I have to admit is new to me. I was fascinated to learn that it had a penchant for dancing and despite its 8m length and 5 tonne weight, this crested beauty loved to demonstrate its ground-shaking prowess to all around.
Two T’s bring the family album to a close, Triceratops and finally our presenter, Tony T-Rex Tyrannosauarus. He’s excited to inform us that his poo might weigh as much as a 6-month old human baby.
The final spreads are devoted to how the dinosaurs died out; a visit to the Great Hall of Fossils; a world map showing where fossil evidence has been unearthed (and might still be); how to go about a fossil hunt and some useful dinosaur lingo for those who want to impress their friends.
This splendiferous tome is a must for family bookshelves and classrooms; all the more so as Rob Hodgson has provided the funky illustrations with the delicious wry humour of his that I loved so much in The Cave.