Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Draw-A-Saurus: Everything you need to know to draw your favorite dinosaurs

Draw-A-Saurus: Everything you need to know to draw your favorite dinosaurs

James Silvani
Nonfiction Drawing Book
For ages 10 and up
Watson Guptill, 2014   ISBN: 978-0385345804

Though all kinds of weird and wonderful animals still live on our planet, none of them are quite as weird and wonderful as the dinosaurs were. With the exception of the elephant, none of the land animals that are alive today are that big, and none of them (even the elephant) are as big as the biggest dinosaurs were. There is something about the otherworldly appearance of dinosaurs that captivates us, and the story of their disappearance has intrigued people of all ages for years.

   Not surprisingly, dinosaurs appear in books, cartoons, movies, and theme parks. Many children go through a dinosaur mad period and some even stay dinosaur mad to become scientists who study these ancient creatures. Others write books about dinosaurs or they draw them. When the author of this book was a young artist, dinosaurs were a part of his “everyday life,” so it is not surprising that he learned how to draw dinosaurs well and now he is eager to show us how to draw our own dinosaurs. He also wants to make sure that we have fun as we learn, so he allows his dinosaur characters to do things that are a little unusual, such as sewing and dancing. He even dresses them up on occasion. The editor adds little notes next to these rather strange drawings (he or she clearly does not approve), but the author keeps creating them anyway.

   We begin at the beginning with a discussion about the drawing materials we are going to need. The author’s dinosaur characters are kind enough to show us these tools. They like being helpful. The next step is to look at “Anatomy Basics,” and the author shows us dinosaur and human skeletons. Then he provides us with pictures of a dog, bird, lion and other animals. Next he shows us how one can turn these rather complicated body shapes into simple line drawings that capture the essence of animals in question. After this we get to practice drawing a bipedal theropod dinosaur that is walking, running, stalking, and hopscotching, and we are encouraged to draw from life using a bird, a cat, or a dog as models.

   Most people are particularly taken with theropod dinosaurs, the ones that stand on their hind feet and have small front appendages, and the second chapter in the book is dedicated to these creatures. The most famous of these dinosaurs is the Tyrannosaurus Rex, the great meat-eater, and this is the first theropod that we learn how to draw. We begin with a simple line drawing, like the ones that we learned how to draw in the first chapter. Then, in stages, we add substance to the line drawing until we have what looks like a real T. Rex. We explore how to create textures and then how to add color.

   The author then goes on to show artists how to draw sauropods (the dinosaurs who walked on four feet), armored dinosaurs, ornithopods (herbivores that walked on four feet or on only two depending on the circumstances) and other prehistoric creatures. Then there is a section about “Fine Tuning,” and we also learn how one can have a little fun with our dinosaur drawings depending on how we wish to interpret them. Finally, we learn how to draw some environments for our dinosaurs.

   With delightful touches of humor throughout the book, James Silvani shows readers how they, with a little knowledge and some practice, can create their own dinosaur drawings. It is clear that he does not take himself too seriously and that he absolutely loves dinosaurs, which makes him easy to connect with and wonderfully entertaining.