Guest review and photographs by Viergacht, edited by Suspsy
At the local CNA, I was intrigued to see a children’s book–“Prehistoric Plants: Algae, Fern and Mosses” – that was packaged with a toy fern and what looked to be a Diprotodon, a rhino-sized, bear-like relative of modern wombats and a prehistoric animal not often represented in toy form. Vegetation also rarely gets its own book, usually being ignored or quickly glossed over in a single page.
This proved to be #39 in DeAgostini’s “Dinosaurs & Friends” series. I also purchased #38, a book about Mei Long which came with 1/4 of an erupting volcano play set. Others in the line include Ice Age humans and more popular favorites like Tyrannosaurus, Smilodon, Archaeopteryx, Velociraptor, and C. megalodon. The animals come in family groups of parent and child and are given cute names.
The figure (Rita the mommy Diprotodon) is reasonably accurate and matches the character illustrations. She is smooth with no indication of fur, although this seems to be part of the stylization as the line’s feathered and scaly creatures are smooth too. The colour scheme is dull, but appropriate for a large mammal. Overall, she’s a medium warm grey (the base colour of the plastic) with pale pink on the muzzle and inner ears, a darker pink tongue, a rather bright banana yellow on the nails, and a greenish gray nose shapes like a koala’s. The cartoony eyes are black and white. The paint application is rather sloppy, especially on the toes. There is a visible seam on her rump and an airhole in a rather amusing location. At 4 inches/10.15 cm from snout to rump and 2 inches/5.1 cm high, she’s exactly the right size for toddler hands.
The generic large fern is a flat medium green with a yellow-green green base. It’s 2.5 inches/6.35 cm tall and stretches 4 inches/10.15 cm across. The sculpt is unsophisticated. However, this is reasonable as it matches the Diprotodon and it’s a toy to be played with by little hands. Fine details would break off, and parents likely appreciate its inability to be used as a stabbing weapon.
The books are 25 page hardcovers with illustrated spreads and easy to read text. First, the books detail the featured prehistoric lifeform’s habits, environment, and relatives, and two short stories each featuring a toy piece. While it’s colourful and lively, the artwork sometimes leaves something to be desired. The artist somehow managed to depict the “raptor claw” on the Mei long below as a sort of spur growing out of the leg between the third and fourth digits, which is a pretty woeful error.
Rita’s cheerful expression and portable size make her ideal for small children, who will enjoy playing along with the story. Despite the rather glaring error in the claw placement, the rest of the information in the books is up to date and accurate. I doubt serious collectors would be interested unless they’re completists, but the relatively low price, sturdy construction, and range of critters and scenery make this an excellent gift for budding young paleo-nerds, and would also be nice to donate to charities or local libraries and schools. I personally plan on gathering a collection for my nieces and nephews.
Besides here in South Africa, DeAgostini toys are available in Australia, New Zealand, Malta and the UK. A subscription with bonuses like a t-shirt and bookends can be purchased here and you can pick up any you missed on eBay. This site has a complete list of the book so far.