Papercutz’s new series Dinosaur Explorers focuses on prehistoric life. When an earthquake in Indonesia damages Dr. Da Vinci’s particle transmitter, teen boys Sean, Stone, and Rain are summoned to investigate. Things take an unexpected turn when the group, rounded out by teenage Emily, leggy research director Diana, and a robot named Starz, are accidentally transported through both space and time to an underwater Cambrian world 570 million years in the past. The explorers work to restore power to the particle transmitter while going head-to-head with underwater prehistoric creatures. Then they end up in the Ordovician period (480-440 million years ago). The volume ends with the group having visited two eras of the distant past without having met any actual dinosaurs yet, leaving plenty of room for further exploration in forthcoming issues.

Dinosaur Explorers, vol. 1: Prehistoric Pioneers is formatted partly as a typical graphic novel, and partly as an informational non-fiction text. The fictional story is interspersed with sections which explain various topics such as continental drift, the geological time spiral, and details about a variety of prehistoric creatures. The informational sections of this book are excellent with thorough yet attention-grabbing details and dynamic illustrations and diagrams. Each prehistoric creature is shown with a side-by-side comparison of a human hand or body which makes it easy to understand their size since they are not always shown to scale in the story. Information about the discovery of these species and the basis for the assumptions which paleontologists have made about them is also included.

Unfortunately, the accompanying storyline is not as strong as the informational sections of the book. While each character is described at the beginning, there is no origin story to explain how these teens became associated with Dr. Da Vinci. The characters lack dimension and the reader doesn’t have much reason to become attached to them. Aside from the ever-present need to fix the particle transmitter’s power supply, and Sean, Stone, and Rain wrangling strange creatures, there’s not much plot development. The story serves mainly as a vehicle to introduce the creatures of the Cambrian and Ordovician periods.

The full-color illustrations of the graphic novel sections are attention-grabbing and effectively show the emotions and actions of the characters. Yet it’s the scientific diagrams and illustrations of the prehistoric creatures in the informational sections of the book that really shine. While readers may be aware of some prehistoric species such as trilobites, other species presented in this book are likely unfamiliar. The detail and artistry with which these species are introduced makes the informational sections of this book stand out.

Despite a less-than-riveting storyline, young readers who are interested in science and prehistoric animals will certainly enjoy Dinosaur Explorers, vol.1 : Prehistoric Pioneers. The book explores a world with which few people are familiar and presents some truly fascinating creatures. While the story itself could be more engaging, it does allow the reader to be immersed in an entirely different world, and to appreciate the biological diversity of eons past.

Dinosaur Explorers, vol.1: Prehistoric Pioneers
by Redcode, Albbie
Art by Airteam
ISBN: 9781545801291
Papercutz, 2018
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12

  • Kelly

    | She/Her Library Information Specialist, South Park Elementary School


    Kelly Jahng has studied English, history, and French, and taught middle school for sixteen years.She earned a masters in education along the way before changing hats and earning her MLIS at San Jose State University.She now works as the Library Information Specialist at South Park Elementary School in Deerfield, IL.She loves to collaborate with teachers in the school learning commons and to help students create in the makerspace.In her spare time, she loves to travel, enjoy theatre, read and review youth and YA literature, and write the occasional post for various blogs.

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