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Dinosaur Atlas - John Malam

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Hardcover: 96 pages / Publisher: Dorling Kindersley / Published: 7 Sep 2006

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      17.12.2012 16:03
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      An outstanding addition to any paleontology book collection.

      As a home educator, sometimes it can be difficult to know what subjects we should be teaching at what age level. As my oldest is only 7, I have not taught geography as a separate subject. I can remember vaguely memorising a few locations on maps as a child as just as quickly forgetting them. I don't believe a child this young is really going to retain much information on many subjects unless it can be tied into something they can relate to, or have an interest in. So rather than teach geography as a subject, we have maps and globes and look up locations when we read about them in another book, or see something on television. My son has been asking about where the most fossils are found, and where places like the Gobi desert are though, and I feel when a child expresses an interest in learning something, they will take far more from any lessons on the subject - so when I found this book for under £3 from Amazon it was an easy choice to add to our dinosaur collection.

      This book is published by DK and titled "Dinosaur Atlas". I feel "Prehistoric Atlas" would be more accurate, but I can understand the publisher's decision to use the current title as more people will search for dinosaur books than prehistoric books. This book is an outstanding resource for dinosaurs, but it is not limited to dinosaurs. It begins with bacteria and the first living cells, features Stromatolites, amphibians and the the early Permian reptiles before the the dinosaurs. It also has information on oceanic reptiles and pterosaurs as well as plants, fossils climate and more. In addition there are time charts covering Precambrian through Pleistocene eras discussion of what qualifies as a dinosaur, a dinosaur family tree, a list of dinosaur names with meanings and more.

      This book is illustrated with DK's usual high standard of photography, which in my opinion is among the best of any dinosaur books. In addition to the usual photos of very life like dinosaur models, fossils and plants, there are a number of pictures of current landscapes from featured locations as well as detailed maps for each find, and world maps showing continental drift, or the changing planet in the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. There are some paintings included, but these are well illustrated and the exception to a book primarily illustrated with photographs. This could have been a very dry book indeed had it just given us maps and fossils, but in addition to these, we have life like reconstructions of the dinosaurs and detailed information on the different species as well as what the habitat they lived in would have been like.

      Another nice feature of this book is that it has a small text box with a photograph of many of the early paleontologists under the section with the area in which they were most active. Gideon Mantell is featured in the section for Britain, Erst Stromer for The Bahariya Oasis in Egypt, Roy Chapman Andrews for the Gobi Desert and of course the infamous Cope and Marsh for North America. The information on each paleontologist is very brief, and many important ones are left out, but it still helps the reader put things in perspective being able to read about the location of the fossils, the men who found them, and what the animal was like all at the same time.

      The very best surprise in this book for us was the inclusion of a number clear overlays. My sons absolutely love these, and they really add another dimension to this book. One overlay features the skeleton of an Allosaurus which fits perfectly over a photograph of an Allosaurus model.. Another overlay shows the Saltosaurus in several different position with the skeletal overlay and the model underneath. this shows how the bones would have moved. Other animals features include the Pterodactyl, Pliosaur, Spinosaurus and Protoceratops.

      Another good thing about this book is that does present everything as fact. Paleontology is a rapidly expanding field and every year yields new discoveries which often leave several text books out dated. I have bought a few dinosaurs books from when I was young to show my children just how much the facts have changed. So many accepted facts have been completely debunked now. This book is only 6 years old, but a lot of discoveries have been made in this time period. As far as I know, nothing in this book has been disproved since, but they have covered themselves pretty well by making clear that many ideas are just theories or using words like "probably" and " could have".

      One of the things my son really liked best was the section on flying reptiles. He loved seeing many of the different species but was dissapointed that Dimorphodon was left out. The drawings showing different crests and beak types was especially interesting. He was also interested in the fossil finds from Antarctica, as well as discovering Dinosaur Cove in Australia as he has read a fictional book with the same title. The transparent overlays were far and away the best feature to both of my sons though. It seems a very simple thing, but they really do enjoy these and I feel this encourages them to explore books - and activity I consider essential to developing literacy.

      When using this books, it does not feel like you are learning geography, but I do believe children will remember more from something like this, tied in with a subject they enjoy than just by studying maps. In addition to looking at the map for each region we take out the globe or find it on our own wall map as well, and in many cases my son looks it up on his flags poster as well. I feel that this is a good way to include a little bit of geography in a way that is both fun, and in my opinion more like to be remembered. Geography is just a small section of this book, as there is so much more to it, but it is very well presented and makes this book different from the countless other dinosaur books on our shelves. I really can not recommend this book highly enough for home educators whose children have any interest at all in dinosaurs. It really does make learning fun. But I would also recommend this to any family with a child who likes dinosaurs. My four year old may not understand all of the facts in this book, but he loves playing with it, and older children will certainly learn something from this book - even if they already own many others. Finally, I realise this is a child's book, but I do think this would be of interest to many adults as well. If you know an adult with an interest in Paleontology, this could be a brilliant gift.

      This is a large book, measuring 12"x 10", with 96 pages. It has a hard cover and spiral ring binding. It does have a CD-ROM but this is barely worth mentioning and certainly was not worth including. It has 6 or 8 dinosaur skeletons which you can rotate and look at from different angles. It really isn't worth the effort, but I realise that book publishers like to include digital content now as a selling point. If you bought this book specifically for the CD-ROM I suspect you would be very dissapointed. It doesn't need the CD - it is an excellent book without it so I am not rating down for this, but I did feel it should be mentioned.

      This book sells for £9.59 new from Amazon or £2.81 used. Both prices include delivery.

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