Illustrated fantasy book about a society with sentient dinosaurs
I absolutely love graphic novels and illustrated stories, but somehow I missed this book which came out when I was a young kid. I picked up a copy from the Lifeline Bookfair quite some time ago, and everyone I have mentioned it to has been full of happy nostalgia. When I was picking out books for last year’s Short Stack Reading Challenge, I added this one to the list and was thrilled to finally get a chance to read it.
“Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time” by James Gurney is an illustrated fantasy story about an explorer and biologist called Arthur Denison and his son William. Told as though Gurney has discovered a forgotten sketchbook, the story follows Arthur and William after they are washed ashore on a strange land when their ship sank at sea. They soon discover that the land is inhabited by both people and dinosaurs who coexist peacefully. Over time, Arthur and Will explore the new land and its inhabitants and adjust to their new life in Dinotopia.
This is a beautifully illustrated, whimsical book that was a delight from beginning to end. Arthur’s perspective as a naturalist was an inspired way to tell the story as the reader uncovers new facets of Dinotopia at the same time Arthur does. The story is told in the style of a journal with the text accompanied by exquisite paintings of Gurney’s imagined society. The detail is sublime with all kinds of imagined elements for how such a cooperative society might operate such as botany, technology, culture, sports, transport, architecture, written language, clothing and more. The human inhabitants of the world are descendants of castaways or recent castaways themselves, resulting in a very pluralistic and tolerant community.
Some may critique the lack of conflict in this book, which flows in an even pace along what I have previously described as a “where we went and what we did there” trajectory but honestly the writing was so lovely, the illustrations so quaint and the worldbuilding so novel that I was willing to forgive just about anything and enjoy the peaceful ride.
An absolutely lovely book full of wonder and beauty and I’m looking forward to reading more in the series.