“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

PTEROSAUR TROUBLE ▪ Non-fiction picture book

by Daniel Loxton    Kids Can Press   Ages 4-7
“Prehistoric creatures sport feathers, wrinkles, teeth and scales that are all rendered with hyper-realistic clarity and sharpness. … Dino devotees will devour this eye candy with relish.” –Kirkus
Story:  Follow the pterosaur, a majestic flying reptile, as he encounters a pack of tiny but vicious dinosaurs.  A unique blend of digital illustrations and landscape photography brings the ensuing battle to life.  PTEROSAUR TROUBLE is book two in the Tales of Prehistoric Lives series.  Dramatic stories + eye-popping visuals = a surefire hit with young dinosaur lovers.
Story behind the story: "The Tales of Prehistoric Life series," says author Daniel Loxton,"  strives to attain very high degree of photorealism — I want it to look like I just grabbed my camera and popped back to the Cretaceous in my time machine. To achieve that, I borrow a lot of tricks from Hollywood special effects and visual effects. But there's a big problem with that: Hollywood techniques tend to be very expensive, and work best with huge crews and huge movie industry budgets. We don't have any of that! 

The support and involvement of my own family helps to make that possible. My pregnant wife and young son and I spent days in a tent to capture the key Canadian location photography for Pterosaur Trouble. Those photographic plates get modified a great deal once I get them into my computer in the studio: I stitch them into massive panoramas; paint out the Coke cans and roads and human beings; replace the skies; add the creatures; and modify the landscapes as needed to serve the story. But the more I can capture in-camera on location, the easier and better the process is later. For example, the prehistoric animals in Pterosaur Trouble interact with the water of the river in the story, so it was very useful to capture a lot of splash elements on location. That way, the splashes of water accurately reflect the environment and lighting conditions of the location, so they look intuitively convincing when I add the dinosaurs. To generate those hundreds of splash elements, I drafted my son to spend hours playfully lobbing rocks into the water — nice work if you can get it!

The creatures I select for my stories are sculpted inside a computer as entirely virtual creatures by my collaborator Jim Smith. After expert feedback from our science consultant and a large number of revision cycles, I wrap realistic skin textures around them. That's a laborious, detail-oriented process. The skin texture maps have so much resolution that they're each equivalent to a 67 megapixel photograph! 

I hand paint much of that detail, but for realism it starts once again with photographic reference from nature: detailed photographs of modern living animals from zoos and preserved specimens in museum collections. Bats, pheasants, and herons were especially useful for Pterosaur Trouble.

Although these books are fiction for kids, they are nonetheless informed by the true scientific discoveries of paleontology. In fact, the basic conflict of Pterosaur Trouble was inspired by a specific fossil find from Alberta, Canada. Scientific accuracy is very important to me, to the extent that I actually went back into Ankylosaur Attack to make a correction AFTER it was published:  Throughout the process for Pterosaur Trouble and the third book (in production now), I've kept in close contact with our science consultant, palaeozoologist Darren Naish. He clears all of the basic plot points, reviews the creature designs, and checks the story for scientific accuracy.   See more here.

Reviews and praise: 

"Pterosaur Trouble is a terrific example of how to make a popular book on prehistoric animals both exciting and scientifically sound, an accolade that is all the more remarkable when you consider that a part of its targeted demographic is still learning to read....I get the feeling that real effort was made to render animals which would satisfy fully fledged palaeontologists as much as children. …  there are lots of little details to appreciate."
- Mark Winton, paleontologist, author of Pterosaurs: Natural History, Evolution, Anatomy (Princeton University Press, June 2013).

 “…the prehistoric creatures sport feathers, wrinkles, teeth and scales that are all rendered with hyper-realistic clarity and sharpness. … Dino devotees will devour this eye candy with relish.”

Read an interview with the author on Wired's GEEKMOM blog, and Scientific American.  Plus Daniel writes for Junior Skeptic, the 10-page critical thinking publication for kids bound inside Skeptic magazine.



Catherine Yezak said...

My copy just arrived today. My students are thrilled with it. They can't wait to read it to their reading buddies. It has a lot of simple words that they understand and it is keeping their attention. They are reading it out loud to each other. It is a wonderful book.

Thank you.

5 out of 5

Anonymous said...

"PTEROSAUR TROUBLE" is a wonderful example of a non-fiction picture book! The illustrations in the book are stunning. The story is well written in descriptive but easy to read and comprehend English. I particularly liked the end of the book with the fact pages. "PTEROSAUR TROUBLE" is a pictorial treat with illustrations that seem to fly off the pages along with the story of the Quetzalcoatlus and Saurornitholestes. I am anxious to share the book with my students and I am certain they will love it as well.
I give it a 5 out of 5.

Linda said...

I wish I was a child again. As soon as the book came, I read it to my students and they loved it. It is a perfect example of a non-fiction picture book. I plan to use it next year with my 4th graders. The illustrations make you feel as if you were back in time-really back in time- and the facts are written in such a way that makes the reader think and question.

NMills said...

Great book, the illustration really make the story come to life. I would have liked if it had how to pronounce the names when they first enter the story rather than at the end of the book. 4 out of 5

Susan said...

WOW! The illustrations in this book are amazing. It has captivated my first graders from the first page to the end. Even my struggling readers love to look at the pictures and make up their own words and create a story. What a fantastic book. Thank you for your generosity in sharing!

Becca said...

As soon as this book arrived today, the kids got all all excited and couldn't wait to read it together...which we did before the day was through. They LOVED the photos/illustrations combination and thought that this was an interesting way to bring a prehistoric tale into the here and now. They were very engaged with the story itself...cheering the Quetzalcoatlus on in his battle against the Saurornitholestes...and fascinated with the information presented. This book hit a home-run with my second graders!!

Mrs. Null said...

This tale of prehistoric life introduced me to the Quetzalcoatlus, which is "distantly related to the dinosaurs, but they were not dinosaurs. Nor were they birds. They were giant flying reptiles." This is juvenile literature at its finest, provoking wonder and questions, resulting in an interest to know more. I appreciate the final page after the narrative that offers an explanation of the inspiration of the story and some extended information about the creature in the book. The manipulated photographic like images are striking and really support a lens from before any readers time.