cover image Small and Tall Tales of Extinct Animals

Small and Tall Tales of Extinct Animals

Damien Laverdunt, illus. by Hélène Rajcak. Gecko Press USA (Lerner, dist.), $22.95 (80p) ISBN 978-1-877579-06-6

This splendid, oversize encyclopedic study of extinct animals handles a potentially depressing subject without hectoring or mawkishness. Laverdunt strikes a companionable tone (“The passenger pigeons’ migration wasn’t seasonal.... it was all about food”), while the quiet lines and somber palette of Rajcak’s drawings—well over 100—have a classic feel. Multipanel cartoons appear on the left, while full descriptions of each animal appear at right. The informal and often humorous cartoons take up some knotty issues in animal biology: “Ah, excuse me,” inquires an ordinary deer during a discussion of the tremendous antlers of the extinct Irish elk. “Is this the international antler contest?” Animal lovers will pore over this volume for hours, learning about how extinct creatures like the glyptodon were sometimes larger than their contemporary equivalents and sometimes smaller, like the Sicilian dwarf elephant. Still, Laverdunt and Rajcak don’t gloss over the cause of most extinctions (“The moa... was no match for an enemy as destructive as man”), and the book’s message is unmistakable: when humans believe there’s an inexhaustible supply of a particular species, its future is in jeopardy. Ages 7–10. (Sept.)