Gurney

Artwork by James Gurney

I just found out about this and it pains me so much to not be able to get my hands on it here in Japan.

When I was younger, much younger, I was fascinated by the two large, coffee-table-sized books of stories and artwork by James Gurney in the world of Dinotopia. The two books I had the pleasure to read as an imaginative child were Dinotopia: A Land Apart From Time (1992), Dinotopia: The World Beneath (1995). At the time of their publication I was 8 and 11 years old respectively. These books were powerful trips of fantasy that were arguably as imaginative as J.R.R. Tolkien, Jules Vern, and H.G. Wells in their respective works of literature. If you don’t know the backstory, here is the description of the first book pulled from the Wikipedia page:

Dinotopia is a fictional utopia created by author and illustrator James Gurney. It is the setting for the book series with which it shares its name. Dinotopia is an isolated island inhabited by shipwrecked humans and sentient dinosaurs who have learned to coexist peacefully as a single symbiotic society.

What made these books so terribly powerful was their limitless possibility for narrative fiction that appeals to creative youth. What hurt dearly was how the second book finished. It felt so incomplete and with so many questions left unanswered for a child at the age of 11. I wanted, no, I hungered for more and managed to convince my parents to buy whatever other texts related to this fictional universe I could find. Unfortunately, none of these other books really expanded beyond the conclusion of the second book.

Especially more poignant was the narrative of the second book regarding technology, long forgotten and lost to the underworld of the caverns that lay beneath the mythical world on the surface. It drew parallels and behaved almost like a figurative Atlantis lost to memory and history beneath one’s feet. At the time I was beginning to find my connectedness with things mechanical. I loved Legos and everything that required assembly. Relatedly, I was entranced by the mechanical arm of the garbage truck as it grabbed and tossed garbage bins into its hull. I loved things that were extensions of the human body in a mechanical sense. The thought of a fantastical world of technology to discover and explore captured my attention and drew me in more powerfully than any other young adult novel I had ever read.

Gradually, however, and over time, I lost interest because future publications in this world appeared to never come. There wasn’t anything more than the texts I held in my hand. That is until, just a few days ago. As an adult I have discovered that there is a third book that was released six years ago, Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara (2007). I so desperately want to get my hands on this book. It’s 160 pages of rich story telling and illustration that just powers the imagination and really sucks you in. Unfortunately, I am stuck here in Japan. I strongly doubt I’ll ever find a copy and it just isn’t reasonable to order one shipped over here… perhaps.

This whole second discovery of the books has made me desperate to answer questions that I held as a youth and forgot with age. It’s so delicious to reach back into my history, as far back as a young child, and rekindle the love I had for stories once read. I am sure, however, that these books will just answer some questions and raise new ones. It’s ok to dream a bit more and be fanciful again, right?

I highly recommend all three of these books, especially for children.

It might be time to bite the bullet and pay for some expensive shipping…

As an aside, the artwork by the author will be on display at New Hampshire Institute of Art for a couple more days.

And here is a link to the BoingBoing article talking about the books and the art exhibit.

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