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Paleo-cartoonist Hannah Bonner visits Berkeley

Writer and illustrator Hannah Bonner paid a visit to Berkeley on January 11 to discuss the scientific and creative processes behind her series of paleontology books for children.

Born in and based out of Mallorca, Spain, Bonner received a degree in art and has since worked primarily as a freelance artist and illustrator. Her credits include creating artwork for Scholastic, WGBH, and the Smithsonian Institute. At the latter she met her UCMP host, Cindy Looy, who, along with Ivo Duijnstee, subsequently served as advisers for Bonner's reconstructions illustrating the biotic recovery following end-Permian extinction.

Bonner's interest in combining paleontology and art began when a friend asked her to draw a reconstruction of a fossil dwarfed goat from Mediterranean islands. She then partnered with National Geographic Children's Books to create a series of books focused on making the lesser known facets of ancient life -- giant insects, coal swamps, the transition to land of both plants and animals, and more -- accessible to children and adults alike.

Bonner's colorfully illustrated and intricately detailed books depict characters in all forms of terrestrial and marine life, spanning five geologic periods, including two mass extinctions. Her latest book, "When Dinos Dawned, Mammals Got Munched, and Pterosaurs Took Flight," to be released April 2012, tells the history of life starting with the recovery from the end-Permian mass extinction and concludes with the end-Triassic mass extinction.

Bonner's talk featured personal anecdotes from the creative and editing work that went into the final product, the struggles involved with accurately communicating the science and depicting paleoenvironments, and behind-the-scenes looks into the illustration process. Primarily an illustrator, Bonner comments that making the leap to writing for her books was easy with this subject matter because, as she states, "the plot is already written in stone."

To find out more about her books, click here.

Scans of artwork provided by Hannah Bonner.