A Dinotopia: Land Apart from Time

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 418

After their ship has been wracked by a typhoon, Arthur Denison and his son Will are carried to safety by dolphins. Professor Denison, a biologist, recognizes immediately that the land to which they have been transported has a strange quality about it, for is sustains plant life of a bygone...

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After their ship has been wracked by a typhoon, Arthur Denison and his son Will are carried to safety by dolphins. Professor Denison, a biologist, recognizes immediately that the land to which they have been transported has a strange quality about it, for is sustains plant life of a bygone era. As he and Will explore their surroundings, they encounter what Arthur can only describe as a hog-parrot—it is, he shortly realizes, a dinosaur, one of the thousands that inhabit Dinotopia.

The Denisons are graciously welcomed to the island by a host of humans who arrived (or are the descendants of those who arrived) under circumstances similar to their own. They learn that no one has ever left the island because it is surrounded by an impassible coral reef and a system of tides and winds that prevent navigation.

Will adjusts easily to his new surroundings, making fast friends with others his own age. He is fascinated by the prospect of cohabitating with the mighty dinosaurs; and upon his first sight of a Skybax Rider—humans trained to fly upon the backs of the Quetzalcoatlus skybax, the most majestic flying creature the world has ever seen—Will dedicates himself to achieving that honored profession.

Arthur, on the other hand, though likewise fascinated by the novelty of the island and overwhelmed by its significance to his field of biology, feels confined and misses his old friends. The more Arthur explores, however, the more impressed he becomes with Dinotopian life and culture. The inhabitants of the island live in peace. There is a mutual respect among the various life forms, and they all utilize each other for the sake of practicality and for the health of the environment. The dinosaurs are revered by the humans for their strength, intelligence (they have their own alphabet and language), and generosity (they are always aiding humans in activities such as transportation and childcare); and the humans are respected by the dinosaurs for their perpetual quest for knowledge and their desire to coexist peacefully on the island.

James Gurney’s DINOTOPIA looks like a children’s book: It is oversized, and the text is accompanied by decorative, detailed paintings on every page. The design, however, is meant to grab the adults as well; in fact, a good deal of Gurney’s text could prove difficult for a child. Gurney is especially adept at his art: He worked as an illustrator for NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC re-creating the look and feel of ancient and lost cities.

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