There are many children‘s books about dinosaurs,and many of them are very good. Not all, but many. Changing of the Guard by Ted Rechlin joins that category: it is a delightfully imaginative children’s book, that juxtaposes beasts that roamed Yellowstone National Park 70 million years ago with its current inhabitants. Handsomely illustrated, it would make a wonderful gift for that dinosaur-obsessed child found in every family.
Not so much a story as a vivid scene, Changing of the Guard allows us to follow Yellowstone denizens one morning and to compare and contrast them to its former inhabitants. Not everyone can picture an animal that is 20-feet tall, 45-feet long, weighing 14,000 pounds. Rechlin offers us the grizzly bear as its modern-day counterpart (not by species, but by presence), and it’s easier to imagine T. rex’s size in comparison.
Every animal introduced in the book is accompanied by its vital statistics: height, length, weight, and eating habits (herbivore, carnivore, omnivore). This information is essential to appreciate the variety of life that inhabits (or had inhabited) the Lamar Valley, where Yellowstone National Park is located. The animals are also introduced according to their place in the food chain, from smallest to largest. First come the Columbian ground squirrel and the prehistoric rodent-like mammal purgatorius. Each has a brood of newborns squealing to be fed, so each must go out into the valley and find food without becoming meals themselves.
Peaceful herbivores graze and wade, but all is not serene. We soon meet carnivorous dromaeosaurs and gray wolves, also out hunting breakfast. Successful in their hunts, they still face defeat by Tyrannosaurus rex and the grizzly bear. Although some of these beasts are fearsome to behold, Rechlin does not drench his pages in gore. Instead, he treats his readers to 38 dramatically drawn pages of wildlife as seen in its natural habitat. The animals are not caricatured or personified in any way, which broadens the audience appeal.