Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Dinotopia, The World Beneath

Dinotopia, The World Beneath

James Gurney
Picture Book  Series
For ages 10 and up
Calla Editions, 2012   ISBN: 978-1606600337

In 1862 Arthur Denison and his son, Will, were shipwrecked off the island of Dinotopia. Rescued by dolphins, they were brought to shore, and soon after found out they were in a place where dinosaurs and humans lived side by side. Indeed, the humans and dinosaurs had formed a peaceful society where there was no war and suffering.

Since that time Arthur and Will have learned about the history, language and customs of Dinotopia, and Will has been training to be a skybax rider, spending hours riding on the back of the “largest flying creature that ever lived.” While Will learns how to work with his skybax, his father and their dinosaur friend, Bix, set off to explore some of the caverns that lie deep beneath the island; the caverns that, it is said, provided refuge for the dinosaurs from the changes that brought about the extinction of their kind everywhere else on Earth.

The caverns are full of extraordinary sights and Arthur would like to explore them further, but he comes to a huge locked door for which he has not got the key and he has to turn back. However, he is able to bring back some artifacts, which includes half of a huge key. His hope is that the other half will be found and he will be able to return to the World Beneath to find out what lies beyond the door.

An appeal is sent out and soon after a woman called Oriana brings the other half of the key to the Round Table Hall in Waterfall City. She is willing to let Arthur take the key with him, but only if he takes her along with him. Arthur is not at all sure about taking a woman on an expedition that could be dangerous, but he has no choice. If he wants the key completed he has to take Oriana with him. Reluctantly he also agrees to let another human, Lee Crabb, to be their guide. Lee knowns “the highways and byways of the island” in and out, and he also has a submarine vessel that they can use to enter the caves from the ocean.

Soon enough Arthur, Oriana, Bix and Crabbe are travelling in a boat from Waterfall City to the coast. Arthur is able to win back Crabbe’s sub (which he forgot to mention he lost in a game of chance) and then they set off for the caves.

Before they are able to get to the cave entrance they are attacked by a giant armored fish, but manage to escape and continue their journey though many underwater passages until they finally arrive in a “grand chamber,” and in front of them is the door that Arthur saw when he was last in the World Beneath.

Oriana and Arthur put the two halves of the key together and open the door, which leads into a series of remarkable and beautiful caverns. One of these is full of sunstones, a gem that can capture and store the sun’s energy. Beyond the sunstone mines they come to another cavern that where there are abandoned barges, roads and canals. Beyond this place is a sunken courtyard full of machines; walking and swimming vessels that look like dinosaurs and trilobites. A long gone civilization built the machines and Arthur finds out that they are powered using sunstones. He is sure that other marvelous discoveries lie ahead of them still.

In this second book in the Dinotopia collection, James Gurney takes his readers on two more adventures on the magical island; adventures that eventually end up converging in a very surprising way. What is especially interesting is the way in which Arthur changes over time. In the beginning of the story he is sure that building machines is the way of the future, but then he starts to rethink whether, perhaps, machines are not always the answer to a better life.