Vintage Dinosaur Art: Ornithomimus (Dinosaur books from The Child’s World)

Vintage Dinosaur Art

Ornithomimosaurs: they almost always get a mention, but are hardly ever in the spotlight (except for that crazy giant one). How fortunate, then, that The Child’s World saw fit to dedicate an entire volume in their series of dinosaur books to Ornithomimus, a pretty vanilla ornithomimosaur if ever I did see one. (It’s a good thing that there’s no such thing as a specialist ornithomimosaur researcher, so no one can take me up on that.) What’s more, it has some of the most charming illustrations in the entire series.

Child's World Ornithomimus cover

The more ‘normal’ ornithomimosaurs aren’t given the attention they probably deserve in popular media – a lot of it has to do with them lacking a huge maw, armour plating, giant claws, horns etc. etc. They just aren’t so visually interesting, leading to a lot of the discussion around them being based on how they could escape from other, more predatory and sexy theropods. Such is the case for much of this book, although given that that’s hardly enough to pad out the entire thing, we are also treated to some rarer depictions of ornithomimosaur behaviour that isn’t just running away from stuff, very fast.

Ornithomimus by Ching

The illustrations here are provided by ‘Ching’, and for my money are among the best in this series. This isn’t necessarily because of the quality of the reconstructions – the Ornithomimus themselves are decent, often having a Greg Paul vibe (as above), but other (more incidental) dinosaurs suffer a bit by comparison. Rather, it’s the visual style of the whole thing, which has a lovely, sometimes quite minimalist but evocative picture-book quality that is rarely seen nowadays. (Well, it kinda is a picture book, but…you know what I mean.) The composition of each scene, with the simple purple hills in the background, is quite reminiscent of theatre backgrounds for my money. Not that I go to the theatre all that much, for I am well uncoof innit.

The Ornithomimus themselves are always characterful and quite endearing, with their big eyes and friendly faces. They’re naked, of course, but we’re talking about 1991 here.

Ornithomimus eating insects by Ching

Naturally, author Laura Alden is keen to point out the variety of food sources that Ornithomimus could have exploited. Depictions of them eating plants and insects are fairly common, but it’s rarer to see a depiction of one scraping bark from a tree in order to eat the grubby things lurking beneath. You’ll again note the intentionally unrealistic background, which serves to draw attention to the creatures at the front, and is also…oddly soothing. Just look at those purples and blues. Aahhh. Someone paint that on my wall.

Ornithomimus and Triceratops by Ching

Ornithomimus is shown stealing eggs too, of course, in this case from a Bernard Robinson-lookin’ Triceratops. I like the poise of the animal here, as if ready to spring away at a moment’s notice, and those fronds are rather lovely.

Ornithomimus kicking enemy by Ching

“But what did the Ornithomimus do if it was surprised by an enemy,” perhaps the very enemy that it had recently stolen eggs from, the utter lanky bastard that it was? Well, it could have unleashed an “ostrich kick”. Seems entirely likely, and it’s rare to see (the more vanilla) ornithomimosaurs fighting back in this way; normally they are depicted as being entirely dependent on their speed, and if cornered, utterly helpless. Let’s not forget that they could still kick, not to mention swipe and slash – although kicking would definitely have been more effective.

I’m not sure what the mono-horned fellow is supposed to be, but its lion paws are somewhat unnerving. What did this (probable) ceratopsian do to offend our hero? Perhaps it tried raiding Ornithomimus‘ own eggs? Now that I’d like to see.

Ornithomimus escaping tyrannosaur by Ching

Of course, ‘ostrich kicks’ might not have perturbed a tyrannosaur that much – I mean, they bit each other’s faces with bone-crushing teeth, so they were well ‘ard. When facing such an adversary, Ornithomimus probably did just peg it. The ornithomimosaur here does look familiar – it might be another Bernard Robinson – but I’m too distracted by the wonderful Charlie Chalk-looking rocks to care. If you want to appeal to me, evoke British kids’ shows from the late ’80s and early ’90s. (Did you know that Bob Peck, who played Muldoon in Jurassic Park, voiced some puppet crows in Forget-Me-Not Farm? It’s the kind of dumb trivia I live for.)

Ornithomimus feeding chicks by Ching

A more unusual depiction of ornithomimosaur behaviour would be the above, in which an adult is shown feeding a lizard to chicks. Which, hey, it might have done! Regardless, it’s lovely to have a look at ornithomimosaur life beyond running away from things and eating eggs and dragonflies. One could argue that the juveniles look rather too much like shrunken adults, but then, I imagine the artist had absolutely nothing to work with there.

Ornithomimus herd by Ching

Perhaps my favourite spread in the book is the above, featuring a herd of Ornithomimus passing through the sort of beautiful greenery that would be a noted highlight of any National Trust attraction (along with the fine cream teas and gift shop well stocked with mumsy tat). This is a real showcase of the beautiful stylisation employed here; the flowers are particularly berautiful, as are the speckled hides of the dinosaurs.

Ornithomimus after asteroid strike by Ching

It’s not all fun and frolics, though, for eventually the Reaper comes to us all, and it was quite unfortunate that, for Ornithomimus, he came in the form of a bloody massive bolide that wiped out much of vertebrate life on Earth. The above scene depicts a post-impact world in which dust hangs in the air, plants have started to shrivel up, and the Ornithomimus are suffering. I do like this piece, although I feel that the artist stuck a little too closely to the sunny colour palette used in the rest of the book; a sudden shift in tones might have helped emphasise the grimness of the situation a little more.

Don’t worry, though – as Riley Black described in her excellent book, The Last Days of the Dinosaurs, a great many dinosaurs above ground would simply have been incinerated following the impact. That’s all right, then.

Ornithomimus dying in snow by Ching

And finally…because competing ideas about the dinosaurs’ extinction were still just about viable in 1991, here’s an illustration of the Earth’s weather changing and becoming too cold, as mentioned in the text. Of course, one could also interpret this as the result of a ‘nuclear winter’ following the asteroid impact. Regardless, these Ornithomimus aren’t particularly enjoying walking through a winter wonderland, as is quite evident by the pained expressions on their faces. Another rather unusual illustration to round off the book.

One last thing: if you happen to know who Ching is, or was, please do comment as I’d love to know!

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    Matthew Haynes
    May 8, 2024 at 5:15 pm

    A relevant musical number for your enjoyment

  • Reply
    May 8, 2024 at 10:35 pm

    The second ceratopsian’s presumably Montanoceratops, whose jugal was mistaken for a nasal horn.

    • Reply
      Marc Vincent
      May 9, 2024 at 2:12 am

      Thank you, didn’t know that. Now I’m wondering how many dinosaurs have mistakenly been restored with nasal horns. Iguanodon, Ornitholestes, Montanoceratops — any more?

      • Reply
        Thomas Diehl
        May 10, 2024 at 8:03 am

        I’m going to pretend you didn’t forget Oviraptor there.

        • Reply
          Marc Vincent
          May 12, 2024 at 2:00 pm

          To be fair, I’d had a decent amount of vodka at the time.

      • Reply
        May 12, 2024 at 11:37 pm

        Probably Proceratosaurus if it was similar to Guanlong.

  • Reply
    Thomas Diehl
    May 10, 2024 at 8:07 am

    Are we sure that’s a lizard it’s feeding its chicks? Because that looks straight up like a soul condemned to hell in a Bosch or Bruegel painting.

  • Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.