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Small and Tall Tales of Extinct Animals

Part history lesson, part folklore, Small and Tall Tales of Extinct Animals (Gecko, September 2012) uses sequential art and richly colored portraits to tell the stories of twenty-seven extinct animal species. Spanning thousands of years, this book introduces extinct animals from several continents with explorers’ accounts, cultural folk stories, and archeological facts. Authors Hélène Rajcak and Damien Laverdunt aim to shed light on myths and misconceptions of animals such as the giant beaver, the Irish elk, and the woolly mammoth.

However, the cartoonish humor and colorful illustrations are juxtaposed by the somber message of humankind’s overwhelming involvement in the extinction process. Rather than showcase the lives of the various species, the authors instead focus on their political agenda: humans are disruptive and callous predators. The beauty of these distant marvels is undermined by the cynical tone, which left me feeling ashamed and alienated rather than empowered and informed. Despite a visually engaging attempt at history, I found myself unable to connect with this book due in large part to the authors’ pervasive judgment and blame.

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