Friday, January 8, 2016

Dinotopia Book Signing and Sketching

I was inspired by a post on the Five Paws Studio blog about how she acquired a copy of a favorite book with a sketch by the author inside.  It reminded me of a book signing that I went to, many years ago...


One of my all time favorite books when I was a kid was Dinotopia, by James Gurney.

I was fascinated by the fact that, not only did he write an amazing story, he illustrated it himself as well.  Some of the illustrations have a rough, sketch-like quality, others are full blown paintings, loaded with unimaginable detail.  They are all gorgeous, true works of art.  Many of the detailed paintings inside look like photographs.

Being a dinosaur loving kid from pretty much the beginning of my life, I LOVED this book (still do!).  Around the same time that I spent many hours staring in wonder at the illustrations in Dinotopia, the movie Jurassic Park came out.  I was in Dino heaven.

Dinotopia was followed by a sequel, The World Beneath.  Of course, I wanted it, but it would actually be many, many years until I had a copy.  More on that later...

When the sequel book had come out, I happened upon a mention in the paper.  James Gurney was going to be at a book store in the area!

Yes, I still have the newspaper clipping, and also a postcard announcing the book's release.

My mom took me to the signing, but couldn't afford to buy me the new book.  I took my well-loved paperback copy of Dinotopia, hoping he'd sign that one for me.  I had never been to a book signing before and I was afraid they would only sign the new book.  There was a long line at the book store.  I didn't realize that he was sketching, in addition to signing.  I was so surprised to learn this when it was my turn, that when he asked what I'd like him to draw I didn't know what to say.  I told him, "Whatever you'd like to."  haha.

He drew a "Skybax" (Quezalcoatlus) and rider, while telling me that everyone was wanting him to draw T-Rexes and Velociraptors, thanks to the popularity of Jurassic Park.

He added their motto, "Breathe deep, fly high, seek peace."

It was a magical experience and one that I have always treasured.  I still remember watching him draw in my book and being in complete awe.

Fast forward a few years, when the majority of my childhood books were ruined in a flood.  Dinotopia was in that flood too.  It was damaged, though thankfully not completely ruined.  There was no way I could throw it away, not with the author/artist's sketch inside.  So I kept it, water damage, musty smell, and all.

(A quick pause here to add that Kristian of Five Paws Studio is another part of this story.  Early last year she sent me a box of Black Stallion books, after I'd mentioned that I'd lost all of my childhood horse books in the flood and was hoping to build up my collection again someday.  It was an unexpected and wonderful gift!)

Shortly after meeting Jeff, who is also a lover of books, we had been wandering around in a book store when I'd stumbled across the Dinotopia series.  It was then that I learned there had been other books written, after the first two.  I told Jeff the story of my copy of the original book, the sketch, and how it had been damaged.

That year, for my birthday, Jeff completely surprised me with hardcover copies of not only The World Beneath,

but also the other sequel, Journey to Chandara,

and the prequel, First Flight.

I'm still a Dino-crazy "kid", and I'm so happy to have these books in my collection, but most especially the one with the sketch of a Skybax.


  1. Thats so awesome! Congrats! Books are amazing and so fun to have. Long live actual paper books.

  2. This was very enjoyable to read. My son fell in love with First Flight when he was very young. We live in a small community and were never able to get to a book signing. However, I encouraged my son to write a letter to Mr. Gurney telling him how much he enjoyed his books and Mr. Gurney wrote a very nice and personal post card back to him. It was an amazing experience for my son to receive a personal note from someone so important to him.