Dinosaurs and Mammals
by Rita Goldner
I’m writing/illustrating a new book, Making Marks on the World, with black and white drawings for the reader to color. The theme is time travel through history. The young protagonist zooms through a centuries-long timeline, and to geographical spots all over the world and beyond. The fun part for me is illustrating the coloring pages: King Tut’s tomb, the Great Wall of China, etc.
As usual, I’ve had to do a lot of research, but that’s fun, too, or at least interesting. I had originally started the journey with a visit to the cave people. Then my son-in-law, Brian, told me I couldn’t possibly create a coloring book without dinosaurs. Everyone loves dinosaur scenes, especially if they get to color them. I agreed, and tackled the logistics of fitting the dinosaur pages into my story line.
The good news is that I’m using the literary tool of “wormholes” – imaginary portals through space and time. This tool is fabulous! My protagonist can blithely defy logic and go anywhere and visit any time. I use my wormholes rather loosely, but for serious science-fiction authors, there are rules. Even astrophysicists have weighed in on the concept, adding the physics of light speed and relativity. I’ve read that commentary, too, and if you’re interested, you can find it in this National Geographic article.
But that’s too much info for me, as I’m just having fun. Besides, I digress. Back to the dinosaurs. My son-in-law was right: the illustrating is fun, and the research is absorbing. I’m trying to stick with reality in the drawings, even though the time travel is fantasy. So I’ve had to resist the temptation to throw in a few orangutans swinging from the trees over the dinosaurs’ heads.
I originally thought I couldn’t show any mammals at all, since the dinosaurs arrived about 250 million years ago, and went extinct 65 million years ago. Until recently, archeologists thought that the only mammals living during that age were tiny shrew-like rodents that hid in trees or underground to avoid becoming lunch for bigger animals. They thought that any larger, illustration-worthy mammals didn’t evolve until after the dinosaurs were gone.
A recent discovery in China contradicts this theory, and adds to the drama of my dinosaur coloring page! Scientists have unearthed fossilized remains of a dog-sized mammal (Repenomamus) with a dinosaur baby in its stomach. They think it lived about 130 million years ago. So apparently the lunching and becoming lunch went both ways.
“This new evidence gives us a drastically new picture,” said paleontologist Meng Jin, of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. The dinosaur-hunting mammal was powerful, with sharp teeth, somewhat like a large Tasmanian devil or a honey badger. We’re all aware of those reputations. Paleontologist Anne Weil of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina said, “I wouldn’t want it coming after me.”
The Repenomamus species has no living descendants for reference photos, so I am somewhat on my own for the drawing. I am an avid fan of James Gurney, the author/illustrator of Dinotopia. He was asked by Scientific American to do a cover illustration of the Repenomamus eating a baby dinosaur. His illustration (see it here) is fascinating, but he was using his imagination, too – no photo references. Of course I’d never copy another’s work, but I’m influenced and intrigued. This is a very small part of my book, so I’m trying to keep it from eclipsing the other pages, which I’ll unveil in future posts.
You can print out a free full-sized dinosaur page to color by signing up for my kids’newsletter.
Rita Goldner is the author and illustrator of the children’s picture book, Orangutan: A Day in the Rainforest Canopy. Rita has also written and illustrated two eBooks, Jackson’s History Adventure and Jackson’s Aviation Adventure, in the Jackson’s Adventure series. For orangutan facts and images and to purchase the book (also available as an ebook), visit OrangutanDay.com. Or by the Kindle version here. See her new work at Anthill Books. To view additional illustrations and other books in progress, visit Rita’s website. Contact Rita here. Follow Rita on Facebook.