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Dinosaurs: A Visual Encyclopedia

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Genre: Junior Books / Hardcover / 303 Pages / Book is published 2011-06-20 by DK Publishing (Dorling Kindersley)

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      20.09.2012 20:38
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      A well loved book that educates as it entertains.

      No - they were not still walking the earth way back then. I may be getting long in the tooth - but I am not anywhere near 65 million years old. But when I was a child, Brontosaurus was my favourite dinosaur, Stegosaurus had a separate brain in his butt and Parasaurolophus used the hollow space in head to store air when diving underwater. Dinosaurs did not care for their young, and they certainly did not have feathers. But all of these scientific facts are now falsehoods,and to use the term Brontosaurus is meant to be a sign of the uneducated. You see there never was a brontosaurus. It was an Apatosaurus skeleton with another dinosaurs skull stuck on during the infamous between bone wars between two rival American paleontologists. Now we are never meant to even utter the name as to use this name is a sure sign of being ignorant and uneducated - ( Brontosaurus - Brontosaurus - Brontosaurus ). The American scientific community apparently went "postal" when the US postal service issued a stamp with a painting of the Brontosaurus saying it was tantamount to "fostering scientific illiteracy."

      This book was printed in 2011 and represents the absolute state of the art in both the science of paleontology and in the creation and photography of realistic dinosaur models. The name however, is a bit of a misnomer. This would be better named the Prehistoric Encyclopedia - but DK also has another, even larger book with this title. If by chance you own the Prehistoric Encyclopedia - don't bother with this book - this is more or less a shorter version of that title. This tome has a total of 304 pages. Of these pages the combined section for birds and dinosaurs is only 98 pages. This book begins The early earth void of life and continues with bacteria, invertebrates, all manner of aquatic life, insects, amphibians and the first reptiles. Then we will move onto the dinosaur section and finally the mammals including early man.

      There is a section on evolution and Darwin as well as reference to evolution throughout the book- so strict creationists will want to give this book a miss. There are other dinosaur books available that do not go into the evolution of man - but finding any with no reference to evolution would be a challenge. There is a lovely spiraling time line of life from the earths beginnings to Precambrian and right up to the Neogene or modern period. Each era and period is clearly shown along with a common life form from the period from the Silurian period on. There are illustrations from each of the periods within the Mesozoic era alongside pictures of the earth at this time.

      There really is too much material in this book to describe it all so I will really have to skim over it. This book covers modern paleontology, fossil hunting, comparative sizes of life forms and more. Then we move onto the life forms themselves starting with invertebrates showing both modern and prehistoric creatures. There are some really bizarre creatures in this book, and had I just seen these online - I would not believe many were real. A strange thing called Opabinia was our favourite - it looks like something from an overly fertile imagination of a science fiction writer. Many of these things are shown in brilliant full colour photographs that make them appear as if they were actually alive at the time the photograph was taken. Others are skillful paintings - some of which are so expertly done they could be mistaken for photographs at first glance. I have to admit that even with as reputable a company as DK - I did look up some of these creatures elsewhere to see if perhaps there model making department had been to creative - but this is what scientists believe they looked like. I say believe as we all know paleontology has had a number of major mix-ups. What is fact today - may not be tommorow.

      We move on through insects and then return to the seas for some very strange sharks and fish after a brief introduction to vertebrates. The amphibians are nearly so strange with the pictured "Amphibamus" looking almost identical to our own salamanders except for colouring ( which is guessed at anyway). Even the size is very close to the same. After prehistoric plants we move onto animals I would have called dinosaurs before I started reading all the dinosaur books with my children, but now we know these as early reptiles that lived before the dinosaurs, Pterosaurs ( flying prehistoric reptiles) and Plesiosaurs ( aquatic prehistoric reptiles). This section also has some remarkable creatures, but it isn't one for Nessie fans as it completely debunks this idea by pointing out that Loch Ness was frozen solid in the Ice Age.

      At last we reach the true dinosaurs and this book is absolutely stunning. there is an absolute treasure trove of breathtakingly real photographs complete with all the most up to date information on all of the well known dinosaurs and several less well known creatures. Some of these look like dragons with spikes and sails that never existed in earlier books. Many now have feathers and look nothing like the scaly creatures I remember from my own dinosaur loving days as a child. A very large amount of the facts are completely different from books even ten years ago, so this really underscores the need to include at least some very new material in a family library if a child is seriously studying dinosaurs. Anything learned from older books is apt to be considered inaccurate now. Of course these books may become dated and inaccurate themselves in time, but at the moment - this really is a s good as gets. the facts are well researched,a t teh cutting edge of the field, and presented in a way that even a child can understand them.

      The death of the dinosaurs is presented as the result of a catastrophic meteorite strike. This is the prevailing scientific theory at this time, and the one I believe by far the most plausible, but no mention at all is given to competing theories. This is followed by the most detailed descriptions and illustrations of early birds and prehistoric mammals I have ever seen - again depicting some creatures it is hard to believe were real - right up to the evolution of man.

      I have listed this a child's book, as it does seem to be mostly children who read about dinosaurs. This book is presented in such a way though that it could be equally enjoyed by children and adults. I found it absolutely fascinating and feel it would make a wonderful gist for an adult with an interest in natural history or paleontology. My seven year old was delighted with this book - but it is my four year old who loves it the most, trailing it about in spite of the fact that it is huge and asking to hear this instead of bedtime stories. I really can not put any age range on this. I believe a two year old would enjoy the pictures, and an adult of 102 could still enjoy the book.

      I have more dinosaur books than I care to count, but I believe this is the most stunningly beautiful and informative, although Walking With Dinosaurs and Planet Dinosaur are well up there. I paid nearly £17 for this book which really is a lot for me. I can not complain though, because even at twice the price - I would consider this value for money. It is book that I have really relished reading, and one I expect my sons to come back to time and time again for many years to come. This book has been wonderful for our unit study on dinosaurs, but it is even more wonderful just as book to read for pleasure. I simply can not imagine any child growing up in house with books like this and able to resist the urge to look through the pictures and read them. This is the type of book that makes reading a delight and I simply can not recommend it enough.

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