Author/illustrator Chris Gall is a super-genius. His newest children's book is Dinotrux (Little, Brown) and, as far as a piece of writing, I wouldn't say it was brilliant or anything, or even all that good. Conceptually, it' s a little muddy, and not as sharply defined as I would personally like, but the exact execution is eclipsed by the brilliance of the idea.
What are two things little boys like? Like, more than anything else? Dinosaurs and trucks, right. Now what if one combined the two into a single thing, huh? How awesome would that be?
Well, it would be pretty awesome.
You see the Tyrannosaurus Trux on the cover there. Here are the rest of the Dinotrux, from the inside front cover:
On the page opposite of this one is a page with the modern day, real world truck equivalents of the Dinotrux. So on the page above you see the Firesaurus, the Dozeratops, the Dumplodocus, the Rollondon and so on, and on the opposite page in the same arrangement are a fire truck, bull dozer, dump truck, steamroller and so on.
So here's the gag: "Millions of years ago, prehistoric trucks roamed the earth...they weren't helpful like they are today. They rumbled, roared, and chomped. And they did not get along will with others. They were called..."
Well, you know what they're called. The bulk of the book involves introducing a dinotruck or two on each two-page spread. So here's a page with a Craneosaurus eating the treetops, and then here's a picture of the primitive garbage truck Garbageadon eating a mouthful of dirt, followed closely by some sort of bulldozer-y, steam-shovel-looking Digasaurus. One spread trades in in some pretty scatalogical vehicular humor, with a bashful-looking Cementosaurus ejecting brown, stinky stuff from his growling, turning stomach on one page, while the Blacktopadon lifts a hind leg and squirts a black, tarry liquid fom it's little spigot.
I think Gall must have had some bad experiences with delivery companies, based on the behavior of the Deliveradons...
...who were "napping when they should have been working."
After all the beast are introduced, Gall tells us that "one day, there was a flash of light and a terrible storm" which signaled the end of their age, while the smarter ones escaped, moved south and evolved over millions of years into the trucks of today. Then there's a weird spread of a bunch of normal trucks helping excavate a fossilized part of a dinotruck in a city street, and a portentuous final page:
The evolution of trucks from dinosaur-trucks is a neat idea, although the book's view of evolution is kind of weird. The dinotrux live side by side with pterodons, little bird-like dinosaurs, and various reptiles like snakes and lizards. Also, there are cavemen. Cavemen, dinosaurs and dinotrux? What kind of crazy creationism is this? I can't quite wrap my head around it...
Er, not that I have to, as this is a kids book, and I'm not a kid. But I love Gall's designs for the various dinosaurian trucks, and the names he comes up with for them. If I were six, I'd want nothing more than a line of toys based on these. Actually, er, I think I still might like a line of toys based on these. Just to collect and display of course, not to play with.
If you're interested in the Dinotrux, be sure to click on Gall's name up there and visit his site. There are some online trailers there with plenty of images. Gall's Dear Fish is also a pretty good book, with gorgeous, surreal-ish images of undersea creatures visitng the everyday world in bizarre ways.