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My children are full of questions - and my answer to most of them is to buy a book. My sons had both expressed an interest in what came before the dinosaurs and a search of Permian life brought this up for some reason. This does not cover the Permian period at all. This book covers the Silurian and Devonian periods - and very little else. There are no reptiles and certainly no dinosaurs, but it still sounded interesting, and at £2.81 I decided to snap it up while it was readily available.
This book is about the evolution of life on earth from bacteria to amphibians. I think most of you will clearly guess that this is very strong on evolution - if this is a topic you feel uncomfortable with - do not even consider this book. It begins with the Silurian,and the oceans are swimming with life. Land however, at least as we know it, does not exist. Dry land could more accurately be described as dry rock. There is no soil at first but a few hardy plants begin in the inter tidal zones. The information is limited. That isn't a failing on the authors part - it is a failing of the fossil record. There was some sort of plant life before the Silurian - but we don't really know what other than that it reproduced via spores. By the Devonian though plants are in full swing as are the bugs. This book give step by step detail of exactly how this took place, as well as how the fish of this period developed. We will learn all about the develop of jaws, fins and a lovely thing called a backbone. There are however a number of sections which read something like "we can't know for sure". I actually prefer this to too many wild guesses. This book is already 5 years old and Paleontology is a science that is expanding very rapidly. Better to have a few too many " we don't know" lines than a large amount of speculation that is later debunked.
This sounds like fairly complex stuff for a young child, but it is presented with cartoon illustrations, and kept reasonably simple and easy to understand. We get things like a recipe for a land plant and another for a land animal, as if we could just whip these up in lab. My sons did want to know if scientists could do this - so I suppose it might be slightly confusing - of course they can not - but it does keep everything fun and light hearted. It is a fun book and both boys enjoyed it. It has in fact been trailed out to be read again a few times at bedtime so I know it has been received well. I do like the fact that it exposes children to a lot of scientific jargon, but I honestly believe that many 4 - 8 year olds mightn't know what a tetrapod is. There is a glossary - but it is very small and limited and I feel a bit more could have been added to this.
This book was listed for ages 4-8. I feel the younger age limit is quite fair. I do think this is a bit to complex for a child much under four. I do believe this could still interest children much older than 8 though. There were a number of sections I didn't know about before, so I like to think the average 10 year old could learn from this as well. ( If not I must be a bit thick ). Rather than age level - I would pay more attention to interest level. If reader has a strong interest in what came before the dinosaurs, than this book will be appropriate for most ages of the general public. It is well written, informative and fun to read. Of course it would be too simplistic for someone with a strong science back ground, but it might be an easy way for even a teenager to get the basics down for a science quiz.
This book is billed as a"A Cartoon Prehistory of Life Long Before the Dinosaurs". This brings to my mind images of comic books, and it isn't quite a comic book, but it is reasonably well illustrated and very easy to follow. The illustrations are obviously geared to the younger child, but not made overly babyish and certainly not cutesy - thankfully.They are not the most detailed, nor are they works of art - but they illustrate the story well and make the text easier for a young child to understand. For the most part, I would put the reading level at a very minimum of 8+ but I would expect the average 8 year old to be unfamiliar with a few words. I find most of the names unpronounceable myself. I feel that a child under 10 would get the most benefit from this book with an adult reading the first time. There is a more detailed pronunciation guide to the back, but I find it tedious to keep flipping to the back of book to pronounce too many words and just advise my son to guess at the pronunciation when reading this himself.
Overall I am very happy with this book. It has kept both children happy and is a wonderful resource for our ever growing paleontology shelf. I am planning to buy book two in this series ( which will finally bring us into the Permian period) when the paperback copy is released in 2 weeks. My oldest sons favourite section was picture with many prehistoric fish, including one that looks like an axe, another like a shield, etc... My youngest quite liked this too but his favourite part was a cartoon showing the emergence of the first amphibians. Two meal worm like creatures watch from behind a bush and ask "I wonder what they eat?"
As a home educator, this type of book is especially valuable for my family, but I think this would be a wonderful book for any child with a strong interest in prehistoric life. Of course this book would be grand for boys or girls, but I find it especially likely to appeal to boys - who often prefer to read non- fiction. It will be especially popular with those who love creepy crawlies, and slimy creatures.