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Danger: Dinosaurs!

I was one of those kids who visited his neighborhood library in Brooklyn several times a week and always came away with an armload of books. It was a profound rite of passage when I graduated from a children’s card to an adult card and was allowed into the sanctum which contained Lady Chatterley’s Lover and other such mysterious things; until then, however, there was more than enough to beguile me in the children’s room. Since there was always plenty of time for everything back then, any book I really liked I borrowed and read repeatedly.

One book in particular which seized me and set up subterranean forces in my personality that I haven’t shaken to this day was a young adult science-fiction novel called Danger: Dinosaurs! by Richard Marsten, about a group of time travelers stranded in the Jurassic era. Some children might have been traumatized by Bambi’s mother in the forest fire, but I had my first adult lesson in the fragility of life when one of the main characters of Danger: Dinosaurs! was trampled to death by a stampeding herd of brontosaurs. Interestingly enough, for someone who has trouble remembering what movie he saw last weekend, I can still visualize the exact corner of the children’s reading room and even the middle shelf where this book could be located.

Do you have similar books which helped (for better or worse) to define you?

Flash ahead many years to my appointment as the fiction selector for the New York Public Library. One day, with a little free time and the Internet at my disposal, I started investigating some of the dusty corners of my past and learned that “Richard Marsten,” the author of Danger: Dinosaurs! was actually a pen name for Evan Hunter, the novelist probably best known for The Blackboard Jungle. (Writing as “Ed McBain,” he also produced a noted police procedural series about the 87th precinct.) To my astonishment, Alibris had an old copy of Danger: Dinosurs! for sale. Wasting no time, and motivated as much by curiosity as wanting to enhance the library’s collection, I put in an order through our acquisitions department. When I finally got to touch that book again, it was like my very own version of a time machine. Just the sight of the end pages, reproduced above, was enough to turn me into a happy twelve-year old. Of course, when I tried to read the book I couldn’t sustain interest beyond about page 5, but that was okay: I’d had my Danger: Dinosaurs! moment in that neighborhood library children’s room and never forgot it.

Since things usually come full circle, I’m now pretty much back where I started, borrowing books from the circulating collection of the Mid-Manhattan Library. True, for a while browsing in bookstores was my passion, buying books my vice; but when you live in a tiny Manhattan apartment, cram as you will, there is only a finite amount of space. You don’t want to end up one of those people with piles of floor-to-ceiling books: jostle them the wrong way, the books come tumbling down, and it’s days before they unearth your rotting corpse. Nowadays the lending library gives me the same sense of limitless possibility, of discoveries waiting to be made. So many books are still crying out to be read. While I can pretend I’m selecting them I know, in a sense, they’re selecting me. I’m sure some of my colleagues have spotted me, wild-eyed, wandering the aisles at Mid-Manhattan, and discreetly turned away so as not to embarrass me. Just the sight of all those books excites my overheated imagination.

For years now, people have been trying to sell me on the idea of e-books. How efficient to download a dozen books at a time into some little gizmo and actually turn the pages just by pressing buttons. As if the world weren’t full enough of little gizmos. I don’t believe these people remember the tactile relationship that develops over time with the book you’re holding in your hands--even if it’s only a book on loan from the library.

Danger, dinosaurs!


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Childhood Favs

Leonard Street is my Brooklyn branch now! My childhood fav. was <a href="">Noel Streatfeild</a>. And even today <a href="!dial&view=subscriptionsummary&uri=full=1100001~!788781~!27&ri=1&aspect=basic&menu=search&ipp=20&spp=20&staffonly=&term=ballet+shoes&index=GW&uindex=&aspect=basic&menu=search&ri=1/">Ballet Shoes</a> is one of my favorite books to give to little girls. Glad to hear of something equally entertaining for little boys!

I read and re-read Harriet

I read and re-read <em>Harriet the Spy</em>, which I probably initially borrowed from the library, though I only remember my own falling-apart red paperback--nd of course, I started carrying my own notebook and "spying" on family members. I also read and re-read <em>A Wrinkle in Time</em>, which I definitely borrowed from the library, starting circa 2nd grade, when I was still rather too young to fully get it. I know I read and liked the <a href="">Claudia books</a> by Barbara Brooks Wallace, but what I remember more than the books themselves is the spot in the library where they were. For years I couldn't remember the books' titles or author, but knew they were about a tomboy named Claudia and by an author whose name was late in the alphabet; I ended up then re-discovering the author's name while reading <a href="'>Stump the Bookseller</a>, a pretty excellent site.

Tall Book of Make Believe

For me it was <a href ="">The Tall Book of Make Believe</a>... then a little later (first or second grade) a little paperback called the <a href ="">Lost Race of Mars</a>.

Robert read

Robert read Danger:Dinosaurs! to his little sister too - and it had the same effect on her. I still remember how Owen ceased to exist in the future after being trampled in the past. It fostered a fascination with dinosaurs that has continued to today. I can also highly recommend the practice of reading to younger family members. That stays with a person too!

Danger: Dinosaurs!

Me too! Danger: Dinosaurs! was my first "Real Book" and I'll never forget that feeling! I had just gotten my first library card and this book just kind of jumped out at me from the shelf. I never thought I'd get through it ,but I couldn't put it down. I think that every child can benefit from the library 'experience'. It teaches a sense of responsibility and real connection with your community. Not to mention the sheer pleasure of just reading a really good book. Thank you for that wonderful story! Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I'll drop by e- bay for a moment...Maybe there's another copy out there!

Danger: Dinosaurs!

Wow! - other people who have had "Danger: Dinosaurs!" moments similar to my own! I remember this novel from my 1950's-60's childhood in Buffalo, New York. DD was a special book; I borrowed it multiple times from the Kensington-Bailey branch of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library. I was already dinosaur-crazy (King Kong; The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms; Roy Chapman Andrews; Turok, Son of Stone; Charles R. Knight, etc.), but DD added to my fascination with time-travel, and shocked me for the first time in my "serious" reading experience with the death of a main character - death by dinosaur no less! As the years passed, I forgot the title and the author but I occasionally returned to the impression the novel made on me. At those times, I urged myself to seek it out again and see how it matches up with my old memories of it. I finally did this several months ago and (bless the Internet) I found it pretty quickly in a listing of children's science fiction and fantasy books. I couldn't quite remember the title, but I spotted it very quickly as I scanned through the publications of the 1950's. I located and purchased an excellent copy of the first edition for a pretty penny and I'm saving it for the right time to experience again! Thank you for sharing your experiences with DD! Here's to those fascinating and memorable childhood moments!

I feel the same thing when I

I feel the same thing when I read this book in Argentina in the earlys eighties.

Me too

This was a definitive book for me as well. When I was in 4th grade and borrowing books from the West Memphis library my mother came up with a new rule that for every two Hardy Boy books I checked out I would have to check out one other book of any kind (I wasn't obliged to read it because she knew I would, regardless). A little later she called for me and it was time to go check out. Desperately I reached up and took the middle book at random off the first shelf above the Hardy Boy shelves -- and I was completely hooked on Science Fiction and remain so, over forty years later. I still vividly remember Danger: Dinosaurs! just from that one reading. Pure gold when you are at the right age. Those poor, overly reread Hardy Boys were off my reading list forever as I discovered Robert Heinlein's "juvenile" list on my very next visit. My mother regretted her "deal" as this was just "wierd." Now we live in an age where every other movie is science fiction or fantasy. Books like this made that happen.

Danger Dinosaurs major impression

The loving detailed descriptions of big-game hunting rifles (I recall all that talk about "steel jacketed bullets") most definitely created a fascination with firearms I hold even to this day. I think reading D.D. at that young age was the cause (aka; "significant emotional event") which "triggered" that. I was appalled when I learned from the post above, that the author was the same one who wrote "Blackboard Jungle" and the "87th Precinct" novels (I wonder if those sexy descriptions of firearms are in those novels also?). D.D. was also my first "real" book, back when I was a uniformed catholic schoolboy tyro. Girls had not entered the picture at that age to distract my near fanatical obsession with reading comics. Curiously, I never developed a taste for hunting animals in real life (although I was later in life to hunt men), my firearms activity extends only to precision target shooting, punching holes in paper. Humorously, D.D. flashed back to me as a teenager learning about real firearms, when I discovered "steel jacketed bullets" were a myth. Copper jacketed bullets are used (aka "Ball"/"full metal jacket"), because steel would degrade the barrel of a firearm, being too hard a metal to use in real life. Steel evokes power though, and I reckon that is why Evan Hunter used it. Ian Fleming was notoriously ignorant about real firearms, yet thousands have bought Walther PPK pistols due to his influence out of the James Bond 007 novels. I wonder what it would be like to read D.D. again as an adult?. For me, Danger Dinosaurs made a major impression, creating a taste for Sci-Fi and firearms...zkAe


Nice to hear of other people having early defining reading experiences with this novel. I got mine out of the library at my elementary school, Rideau Heights P.S. in Kingston, Ont. when I was about 10 or 11, and will never forget my wide-eyed amazement as the death in the past erases his existence. That book was as alive to me as if I were watching it all happen. I'd love to find a nice, old, smelly copy to put in my bookshelf. I had a similar experience in 8th grade reading Moonfleet, by J. Meade Falkner. I'd entirely forgotten the title and author and described it to my wife two years ago. To my surprise, not only did she recognize the story, but she even had a copy. I re-read it for nostalga's sake, and pleasantly, it was still a fine read.

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