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Ankylosaur Attack

by Daniel Loxton; Daniel Loxton and Jim W.W. Smith, illus.

Dinosaur books usually default to the tooth-and-claw scenario we’ve been visualizing for these terrible lizards for over a century. Dinosaur-on-dinosaur violence underpinned the very first stop-motion films made about them and, even today, no dino book, television show, or movie is complete without at least one bloody set-to.

Victoria science writer Daniel Loxton does little to reinvent this particular wheel with his second book for children, the first in a new series called Tales of Prehistoric Life. To any clever young paleontologist-in-
training, the title of Loxton’s book may seem like an impossibility: the dinosaur in question is a squat, slow-moving, club-tailed plant-eater who is not likely to attack anything. The young ankylosaur in the story is particularly passive, until circumstances force him to defend an older, wounded ankylosaur against a bloodthirsty T. Rex.

Loxton doesn’t pack a whole lot of dino-information into his unadorned narrative, but this is still a fact-based tale, meant to educate as well as entertain, so there are only hints of anthropomorphism. That the two ankylosaurs, old and young, end the tale as something close to friends is the book’s only Disney-ish touch.

The computer-generated illustrations aspire to the vividness and realism of film stills, and they come very close, the dinosaurs looking slightly awkward and unreal only here and there. The pairing of early reader text and dun-coloured, photo-realistic images seems odd at first, but the intent here is to give young readers a taste of what’s in store once they develop their full-on dino obsessions.