A new children’s book out this month fulfills a request made by two Seward boys to their mother. Kai, 5, and Sylas Reising, 4, had seen a coloring book put out by the state of Texas about its dinosaurs.
“They thoroughly enjoyed that,” said their grandmother, Homer writer and naturalist Janet Klein. “They asked Deborah, ‘Mom, we want a book on Alaska dinosaurs.’”
Klein and her daughter, Deborah Klein, along with Seward artist EmmaLee Moore, have published “Alaska Dinosaurs and Other Creataceous Creatures.” Printed by Janet Klein’s Kachemak Country Publications, the “color and learn” book for children and adults describes dinosaurs and other ancient species found from the North Slope to Denali National Park to the Talkeetna Mountains. In Homer, the $14.95 book is available at the Homer Bookstore, Old Inlet Books, the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies, Captain’s Toy Chest, Salty Girls, Coal Point Trading Company and Land’s End Resort.
Each section includes the spelling and pronunciation of the cretaceous creatures and a scale drawing by Moore of the animal as shown relative to a 5-foot child. The Kleins consulted with University of Alaska Fairbanks scientist Patrick Druckenmiller to make the book as scientifically accurate and timely as possible. Moore used drawings from scientific journals and other sources to make her black-and-white sketches.
“Deb (Klein) would send me pictures,” Moore said. “It was pretty hard because a lot of the dinosaurs in Alaska — they’re going off footprints or teeny little pieces like teeth.”
“Alaska Dinosaurs” also covers the history of Alaska dinosaur finds, going back to 1961, when geologist Robert Liscomb collected fossilized bones in the Colville River area on the North Slope. Liscomb died shortly after his discovery, and the bones remained in storage for 20 years before being refound and identified. Species found include Nanuqsaurus hoglundi, a relative of Tyrannosaurus rex, and Ugrunaaluk kuukpikensis, a plant eater preyed upon by Nanuqsaurus. One challenge the Kleins had was getting access to scientific journals expensive to subscribe to and difficult for the lay person to find, Janet Klein said.
“We would get what we could and download it, and Patrick Druckenmiller would send us some when he could,” she said.
With new discoveries being made and articles coming out frequently, the Kleins also had to be sure they were current in their research.
“Every paper updates a previous paper,” Janet Klein said. “You’re always concerned about ‘Did we get the latest papers?’”
For example, right after “Alaska Dinosaurs” came out, Klein said she heard about a new article on Alaska dinosaur tracks.
“So here it is. It (the paper) literally just came out this month with new information,” she said. “The fun and the challenge is continuously assembling the new information that comes out about paleontology in Alaska.”
Moore came to the book project in the spring of 2017 at the end of her junior year at Seward High School. Moore heads this week to Brigham Young University-Hawaii in Laie where she will study marine biology and art. Moore had taken math and marine biology classes with Deborah Klein’s husband, George Reising, a high school teacher.
“He told me what Deb (Klein) was doing and he asked me if I would be interested in illustrating the coloring book for them,” Moore said. “I was super excited.”
Because she drew a coloring book, Moore said she had to adjust her style.
“I tried doing a couple of sketches, but they were way too detailed,” she said. “I had to do some simpler drawings than usual.”
The coloring-book sketches allow readers and artists to use their imagination, Klein said.
“They can be whatever you want,” she said. “You can add feathers to them. More and more, colorful feathers are being added to dinosaur illustrations.”
As inspiration, the cover includes coloring of an Edmontonia dinosaur by Sylas Reising. He and his brother Kye also drew whimsical, never-before-seen creatures in the book.
“I like Kai and Sylas’ little drawings,” Moore said. “They’re so cute.”
Moore received an Awesome Foundation grant of $1,000 to support her work on “Alaska Dinosaurs.” A statewide organization, Awesome Foundation members donate $100 a month and then award a flat $1,000 to worthy projects. Deborah Klein applied for the grant on Moore’s behalf.
“What they were really excited about is the fact that there’s nothing out there about Alaska dinosaurs for the Alaska public and it would be scientifically accurate because of Patrick’s (Druckenmiller) involvement,” Klein said.
Homer writer Shelley Gill wrote and artist Shannon Cartwright illustrated a 1997 book on Alaska dinosaurs, “Thunderfeet: Alaska Dinosaurs,” that’s still in print but doesn’t incorporate the latest research.
Orders for the Kleins’ book can be placed by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.