Mammoth is Mopey – An Interview With Artist David Orr

There’s an astonishing number of fossil books for children. That endless stream has fed Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs – the must-read blog for anyone who wishes to see how paleoart has changed through the decades – for years. But now LITC founder and graphic designer David Orr has gone a step beyond reviewing and critiquing old dino art. With his wife Jennie, David has created Mammoth is Mopey – a beautiful and whimsical alphabet book featuring a menagerie of wonderful species from across prehistoric time. What follows is a short interview with David about the new book.

Mammoth is mopey. Art courtesy David Orr.
Mammoth is mopey. Art courtesy David Orr.

Thanks for talking to me David! To start off, can you tell me where the idea for Mammoth is Mopey came from? 

A few years ago, I was working on my MFA in graphic design and experimenting with different ways to create paleontologically-inspired art that appealed to my sensibilities. One of those projects was a set of minimalistic dinosaur family crests. That led me to continue exploring bold, graphic ways to depict ancient life. One day, while I was sketching and joking around with Jennie, she came up with the idea for a mopey mammoth character. That snowballed, and she came up with the idea to do a whole alphabet book of prehistoric animals. Soon we had brainstormed a huge list of animals and matching characteristics, and the project was off and running. As a nanny, Jennie has read hundreds of children’s books – far more than me – and she has great, practical instincts as to what sorts of things are fun to read with a child.

Leptoceratops is lazy. Art courtesy David Orr.
Leptoceratops is lazy. Art courtesy David Orr.

How did you go about choosing the prehistoric animals featured in the book? Did you have certain favorites going in that you definitely wanted to feature?

From the sketches I worked up from our list of animals, the winners were the ones that we both agreed were the most appealing. It was important to me to feature both obscure and popular animals, to help bring contemporary ideas in paleontology to the general public. Because Jennie’s not quite the fossil geek I am, her response was really helpful in knowing that even if we included an animal as obscure as Cotylorhynchus, it could appeal on a visual level, and hopefully bring along a bit of education with it.

Dinofelis is dapper. Art courtesy David Orr.
Dinofelis is dapper. Art courtesy David Orr.

How has the response to the book been so far?

It’s been great! First, our Indiegogo campaign to fund a print run was successful. We were able to raise enough to print a quality hardcover book in an edition of 1,000 as well as some really nice perks. One of the most heartening outcomes has been how many of our backers have been cheerleaders – word of mouth has led many more people to the book, and we’re grateful for the kind words folks have shared.

Now that we’ve fulfilled all of the Indiegogo backer perks, we are working on new ways to sell the book. We did a good job of reaching a core audience of natural history geeks, so our job is to keep reaching readers who are simply looking for a fun book for their dinosaur-loving children.

Brontomerus is boastful. Art courtesy David Orr.
Brontomerus is boastful. Art courtesy David Orr.

Are there any prehistoric creatures that didn’t make the cut but that you wish you have been able to include? Maybe for a sequel?

Honestly, no regrets about animals that didn’t quite make the cut – we’re happy to see readers’ excitement when less popular critters get a moment in the spotlight. We’ve done a few readings in conjunction with our local children’s museum, Wonderlab, and kids always try to guess which animals are coming up next. Without fail, they cannot wait to see T. rex or Triceratops – what else could “T” be, after all? But they love learning about Tiktaalik. That is the ideal reaction we hope readers have when reading Mammoth is Mopey.

We certainly have toyed with the idea of doing a sequel, but for now we’re focusing on taking this momentum and using it to start a small press so we can continue collaborating on more fun projects together.

You can buy your own copy of Mammoth is Mopey – and I certainly recommend that you do – here.

2 thoughts on “Mammoth is Mopey – An Interview With Artist David Orr

  1. I bought three copies–one for myself, one for my nephew, and one for my honorary niece. We all love it, and I love the digital eBook version, too!

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