The Hippo


May 30, 2020








Meet the authors

Author and illustrator will be at the Intown Manchester Downtown Holiday Market
Where: Brady Sullivan Plaza, 1000 Elm St., Manchester
When: Thursday, Dec. 10, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 12, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Thursday, Dec. 17, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Dinosaur discoveries
SEE Science Center book illustrates fact vs. fiction

By Kelly Sennott

Don’t expect anatomical accuracy in Peter Noonan’s illustrations for We Thought You’d Never Ask!, an educational dinosaur picture book published by Manchester’s SEE Science Center this fall.

The book, hot off the press, is filled with whimsical depictions of goofy, bug-eyed dinos mowing the lawn, giving flowers to girlfriends, wearing striped scarves and performing in red jumpsuits with microphones. Their colors, shapes and sizes are all drawn from Noonan’s imagination, and each page poses a question: Was every dinosaur bigger than an elephant? Did they sing songs? Was it cold, and did it snow?
The watercolor paintings, which started on a cartoon panel installation as part of the museum’s 2013 dinosaur show, were meant to be silly and eye-catching. It wasn’t important to book author and SEE Science Center design coordinator Adele Maurier that they be scientifically correct. 
“Not every dinosaur has been discovered or will be discovered. Not every animal becomes a fossil,” Maurier said during an interview at the museum. “I think it’s a very big deal, for the kids and the adults, to read the book and know that not everything is known. In a year or two, we might know something totally different about the dinosaurs.”
Sometimes illustrating from scratch was fun for Noonan. Sometimes it was frustrating. He was struck by how little we really know about the giants that lived approximately 62 million years before the first humanoids appeared on Earth. 
“You know, as an illustrator, I’d really want to get a specific thing down on paper — what it looked like, what it was doing. Did it really drink beer or not, that kind of stuff,” Noonan joked. “But nobody really knows!”
The truth in the book comes in the text, the answers of these quirky questions carefully researched by Maurier. The research inspired her, and when she first envisioned the cartoon installation, she thought it might help kids connect with the information and teach them the lesser-known facts about dinosaurs — that some had feathers, that some were as small as chickens, and that the first birds lived at the same time as the last land dinosaurs. The idea was to make it accessible to young kids especially. 
She framed the information as an answer to a question a kid might ask. Did all the dinosaurs go extinct when the asteroid hit Mexico? Did they travel? Were they colorful? Did they mow the lawn?
“The first thing that surprised me was the grass. It’s hard to imagine a world without grass. The plants they had were very different from the ones we see today. Some of them we would recognize today — different kinds of pine, things like that — but you know, just to really think about how different the world really was, and thinking about the science they’re telling us is surprising,” Maurier said.
Maurier and museum staff liked Noonan’s images right away. They decided to incorporate them in the 2015 exhibition as well, on view Oct. 10 through Jan. 17, and it only made sense to make a picture book of them too. Hippo copy editor Lisa Parsons helped edit, and Maurier and Noonan took the time determining the right style and typography.
“We wanted to create something to share, that people could bring home with them,” Maurier said. “SEE is always trying to find new and creative ways to do informal learning. We always want people to continue their experience when they go home.”
This is the museum’s first education book, and it’s available at the museum and online. Noonan said it helped him get in touch with his inner child, and Maurier hopes the show and the book reach out to even the youngest kids with little interest in science.
The dinosaur exhibit is always one of the best-attended shows and brings in a new generation of learners.
“Dinosaurs are so big. You’ve never seen anything like it. It’s almost hard to fathom, but there’s this strong scientific evidence for it, so you know it’s true...,” Maurier said. “We think of dinosaurs as the gateway to science learning. It’s easily accessible to everybody. Even young kids are fascinated by dinosaurs. It might be first time they see the SEE Science Center, but hopefully it inspires them to continue learning.” 

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