* Prices may differ from that shown
In a home where bedtime stories last for hours, and then we spend a good part of the day reading books for home education purposes - we go through an enormous amount of books. I don't even want to think about what I have spent on Dinosaur books alone, but suffice it to say we have quite a few. This means we always especially enjoy books that offer something different. Flaps may be a bit of a gimmick, but they do help me keep reading fun. This book begins with a short segment on fossils. It then very briefly covers the Permian Period with quite a lot of life in the oceans and some very early reptiles such as Dimetrodon. The next pages cover Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods in order, although we are never given the names for these periods. The Cretaceous period gets four pages rather than the usual 2. The book ends with the end of the dinosaurs.
In terms of information, this book is really does not present anything new and different. This might be a fair complaint from the average family but considering I must have at least 40 books, many representing the absolute latest and most cutting edge developments in palaeontology - it really isn't fair to expect too much. As a good basic book for a young child, whether as a first dinosaur book, or to add to small collection this is perfectly adequate. I did not buy this book for information. Once you have a collection of even 10 -20 Dinosaur books, you probably do not really need anymore in terms of information. In fact I can think of two of my newer and more expensive books that cover everything you would really to know on their own.
I bought this book simply for the novelty feature of the flaps. My sons have always loved books with special features like this, and when you read as many books as we do, any little extra that makes it different is a real bonus. I think pop ups would have made this even better, but the flaps are fun and keep young children really focused on the book. The flaps on this book are reasonably sturdy and but could be easily torn by a baby or toddler. They range in size from as small as 20 pence coin to perhaps 3" across. These can be a bit difficult for a young child to open. I have long fingernails which helps, but once the book has been used a few ties the flaps become easier to open.
There are a total of 56 flaps spread out over 14 pages. The book actually has 15 pages + the table of contents but the pages on the front covers do not have flaps). Each set of two pages has a short paragraph, an average of four flaps per page, a large illustration with several types of dinosaurs, labels pointing out the types of dinosaurs, brief facts and questions and answers. With so many things going on at once, the pages do look a bit busy, but my sons like this. If you do not like pages crammed with pictures and information, I'd really suggest another book. You can look at this as cluttered - or simply as packed with illustrations and information. I choose the latter, but I can see where a very simple book with large single illustrations and simple text may suit a very young child. I would not recommend this book for under age 4. I would also note that some of the text is quite small, very stylised, not very dark and printed over various background colours. These factors can make reading more difficult for new readers or children with dyslexia.
The illustrations in this book are all painted, which after reading so many books with the newer photographs of very life like models can prove a slight disappointment in some cases. In this case though, the art work really is first rate and the entire scenes created really are beautiful. These are so full of action as you can often have 7 or species engaged in different activities on a single page. Lifting a flap usually shows a continuation of the action on the main illustration but it may give further information. A standoff between a Triceratops and a T. Rex is shown on an outer flap - the inner flap shows the T Rex eating the dead Triceratops. Another flap shows and egg with a crack while the inside illustration shows a baby dinosaur playing next to the shell. An example of a flap with further information is a picture of Corythosaurus which opens up to reveal the shape of this dinosaurs skull with hollow tubes inside the crest. The reverse of the flap tells us about this feature.
I can not honestly say that I learned anything new about dinosaurs from this book - nor do I really believe my sons learned anything new, but repeating the same facts over an over through different books make help them to commit these facts to memory. There are a few facts the children argued with - in particular my son insists that they do not know if stegasaurus's plates changed colour or why - and he is correct in this. The "fact" presented here is not really fact at all, but simply theory. That said, questionable facts like this present a a wonderful educational opportunity and if the child comes away with a better understanding of facts vs theories this book has been a worthwhile purchase for this discussion alone. I am not really criticising this book because we didn't learn anything new. I do feel that we have read significantly more books on this subject than the average family, and I would think the average child of 4 -8 would find something new in this book.
My sons did enjoy this book. They especially enjoyed a flap which shows two young dinosaurs playing on what appears to be rock - but turns out to be a rather grumpy looking Gargoylosaurus when you lift the flap. My four year old was also delighted with an illustration showing two Parasaurolophus ( his very favourite dinosaur) with musical notes above them. The text asks what are they saying and the flaps say "I am better than you" and "No - I am better the you". He thought this was brilliant - but my oldest thought it was a bit silly as dinosaurs are very unlikely to have had this type of ability to communicate - and he also scoffs at the idea of them playing a tune - which the book says they did. He feels that they probably did make sounds, but he does not believe they actually played music - the start of another long conversation - What is music and is it a strictly human endeavor?
On the downside though, there is a lot of death in this book. There are flaps with the flesh being ripped from creatures as well as a large number of dead or dying animals shown as the mass extinction begins. My youngest did not really like this section at all, especially as some dinosaurs are shown suffering. He doesn't mind as much where he knows the story is fiction, but when I tried to explain that the picture was just made up by an artist I didn't get to far as he said yes - but dinosaurs did really die like that and I could tell he was able to imagine it very clearly. I can't say it shouldn't be in the book - the facts of life are often cruel, but I would have preferred it to be less graphic especially in the depiction of suffering dinosaurs. My son usually suggests that we skip this page when reading - and I believe this page is the main reason this book has not been read as often as similar titles.
Overall - I would recommend this book if you have a child who enjoys dinosaurs between the ages of 4 - 8, this is a fun way to learn about them, or just to enjoy going over the facts. I do wish theories had been presented as theories rather than facts though and I have deducted one star for this reason. I considered knocking another star off for going a bit too far with the scenes of death, but this really is a good book overall and deserves more than 3 stars. We enjoyed this book and it has been well the worth the purchase price of £7.99 new or £3.51 used from Amazon both prices including postage. I would caution that parents be aware that this book might be upsetting for very for young children, another reason for me recommending that parents wait until at least age 4.