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Dinotopia: First Flight by James Gurney eARC (2 stars)

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While not as well known as the iconic Dinotopia and The World Beneath, Gurney's First Flight is nonetheless another visual delight. This new 20th Anniversary Edition is a somewhat long picture book you can read with kids or on your own. There is a ton of text, so it may not be early reader material. I don't usually do picture book reviews here, but I'm a big fan of Dinotopia from way back. I collect the chapter book spin-offs, I remember the "special" ABC mini-series and the horrific and short-lived series attempt that followed.

This eARC was provided through NetGalley for review. Some things may have changed in the final version.
Dinotopia: First Flight by James Gurney
Series: Dinotopia
Genres: Children, Fantasy
Published on May 21, 2014
Published by Calla Editions
Final Rating: 2 stars

Synopsis (from 2000 printing):
In Dinotopia: First Flight, the third book in the best-selling Dinotopia series, we travel back to Dinotopia's ancient past, where the empire of Poseidos is about to use its robot technology to exterminate the peaceful dinosaurs of Dinotopia. Only Gideon Altaire, an orphan, can stop this evil plan--but first he must get out of Poseidos and win the trust of the dinosaurs.

This action-packed addition to the Dinotopia series tells of a time in Dinotopia's past where humans and dinosaurs fought side by side to save their world from extinction. As an added bonus, the front cover opens up into a beautifully illustrated board game! Complete with game cards in the back, this book and board game offer hours of family entertainment.

The actual story of First Flight only takes up half of the book. The story is definitely written for children; events happen in quick succession and characters are introduced and immediately made friends/main players throughout. It's a classic good versus evil adventure with overtones of machine versus animals/nature, and kids should like the dinosaurs/strange creatures.

But the real star is the art. If you've read Gurney's other Dinotopia books, it's strange to see all the grays used for the Empire of Poseidos, strange to see the technology they have, but it makes the contrast with the green, wilder "mainland" extra stark. And the paintings are beautiful.

The bonus content disappointed. The new "story" of a concurrent rebellion read like an outline. Very detailed, but an outline. The storyboards for First Flight were tiny in my eARC and not extremely interesting since I had the finished paintings in the book. And the extra "information" on the Dinotopia's different empires during the Age of Heroes, again, read like Gurney's notes with little polish given to make it true "content." (Example: these people are like a cross between Vikings and Mongols, but nicer.) I think if you're going to add a bonus story, make sure it reads like a story, especially when it's so text heavy and you have few illustrations to break it up.

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