Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Dinotopia, A Land Apart from Time

Dinotopia, A Land Apart from Time

James Gurney
Picture Book  Series
For ages 10 and up
Calla Editions, 2011   ISBN: 978-1606600221

Two years ago Arthur Denison and his son Will left Boston aboard the Venturer on a voyage of discovery. They had recently lost Will’s mother, and Arthur hoped that the trip would help alleviate his son’s grief.

On November of 1862, their ship sails into a typhoon and is wrecked. Will and Arthur are saved by dolphins, who bring the only survivors of the wreck to land.

Soon after making landfall, the two hungry and exhausted travelers venture into the jungle where they meet a strange looking “hog sized” animal that looks a little like an iguana. Feeling threatened by the creature, Arthur strikes it on the leg with a stone and the animal begins to squeal. Soon the two people are surrounded by a collection of living dinosaurs, creatures which Arthur had believe until now had died out millions of years ago. A human girl about Will’s age then appears and she calms the dinosaurs, which are very agitated. Will and his father cannot communicate with the girl but she seems to know that they meant no harm and she takes them to a building that lies beyond the jungle.

When they enter the building, Will and Arthur understand that the place is a dinosaur egg hatchery. Dinosaurs and humans work there side by side, caring for the precious dinosaur eggs and the babies that hatched out of them. The two travelers learn that the girl, Sylvia, lives and works at the hatchery with her father and mother. Soon after they arrive, Arthur and Will met a man called Alec Orchardwine, who can speak an old-fashioned form of English and is “fifteen mothers English.” Arthur understands that this means that Alec’s English ancestor arrived on the island fifteen generations ago. Alec explains that the island on which they now live is called Dinotopia, and that all the humans who live there are ship wreck survivors or descendants of survivors.

Days pass and Arthur and Will start to learn the local language. They also learn about the customs of the island. They will soon have to travel to Waterfall City to register with the authorities and to tell them about themselves.

The journey to Waterfall City is an interesting one, and Will and Arthur meet many fascinating people and dinosaurs along the way. In the city of Volcaneum they meet the dinosaur that Arthur mistakenly injured back in the jungle, and they learn that her name is Bix. Bix is an ambassador who knows many languages and she will be their guide for the rest of their journey to Waterfall City.

When they get to Waterfall City, Arthur starts to fully understand how remarkable Dinotopia is, and he begins to appreciate that being on the island is not a hardship. In fact, it is a gift.

In this remarkable book a fascinating story is paired with rich, beautiful and incredibly rich illustrations to give readers of all ages a memorable book experience. James Gurney has created a fascinating world that readers will be captivated by; a world that many of us would rather like to visit if we could.