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A few weeks ago I decided to sort through our huge selection of books as I was gathering a number of items for the charity shop and one that I came across that recaptured my attention was Walking With Dinosaurs, which I had purchased after being totally fascinated with the popular BBC series that was first aired in 1999. I find subjects of this nature totally captivating and rather than sort through the remainder of the book collection I found myself getting comfortable to once again familiarise myself with this beautiful book.
I can vaguely remembering making my purchase where it was the colourful glossy paper sleeve and its size of slightly larger than A4, which captured my attention when seeing it on display in store and I knew I was setting myself up for treat, particularly as I always find BBC books to be of an exceptionally high quality content. I was an extremely inquisitive child where I would drive my poor parents bonkers, particularly my Dad with my never ending questions such as "what was at the end of the sky?" to "how did the world start?" where I would constantly fire the words at him of "what if?", "how?", "why?" Had this book been available when I was a child my parents would no doubt have had some peace as its 288 glossy pages are packed full of useful information, which would have answered a lot of my questions and I'd like to take you on a remarkable journey whilst we go Walking With Dinosaurs.
The book begins with two pages of contents, which inform us that there are six chapters with each being identified with an image of a dinosaur from that period with the first chapter relating to the Triassic from 220 million years ago to the Late Crectaceous from 65 millions years ago. The introduction provides us with a background of the landscapes that were around at that time with its thorough explanations conjuring up mental images of how things would have looked back then. We are given a brief explanation about the evidence obtained by palaeontologists whose findings over the years have enabled us to gain the vast knowledge that we have today.
It is a difficult concept to think that life probably began about 4,500 million years ago and we learn about evolution from the first signs of life being algae and bacteria to larger animals from approximately 550 million years ago. Despite having read this book on a number of occasions I am always instantly drawn into the easy to read text and am spellbound by the words on the pages. It is amazing to think that creatures such as the arthropods and molluscs, which are with us today, initially began millions upon millions of years ago. I am always fascinated by one of the introductory sections named "The Time of Their Lives" where we are presented with a colourful time spiral chart beginning with the first vertebrates from 500 million years ago where we are able to witness small images of the first insects, land plants and fish to flowering plants, dinosaurs, monkeys and mass extinction some 65 million years ago.
I find the double page family tree totally fascinating where we are taken back to 250 million years ago and step through the different chapters of dinosaurs where an easy to follow colourful diagram shows us how they diversified. We learn about the bone structure of dinosaurs together with their unusual features. Each chapter of the book is as equally interesting as the others and in chapter one named "New Blood" we learn of different types of dinosaurs where we are able to see colourful images and there is a small amount of text below each one giving measurements and the evidence found to suggest that such a creature existed. Whilst the thought of dinosaurs gives me the creeps I am totally captivated each time I read the book, particularly when I read text detailing the bones that were found. The images used throughout are so perfect that they look as if they could have easily been taken in a nearby forest, particularly as the appearance of the dinosaurs is so very realistic.
The book takes us through the lives of a number of dinosaurs and explains how they would have lived throughout the different seasons. A section that I found particularly amazing was in relation to a find in Ghost Range in New Mexico where in 1947 a palaeontologist by the name of Edwin Colbert, discovered the site of a mass death of dinosaurs named Coelphysis. Apparently, hundreds of contorted skeletons were found and due to the vast amount, 28 large blocks of stone had to be cut away so that they could be sent to museums for investigation. The book provides an image of one of the blocks of stone where we are able to witness the fossilised dinosaur, which is actually quite breathtaking, particularly as scientists had to carefully remove the tiny bones from the rock, which took years to complete.
Whilst there is a considerable amount of easy to read text throughout the book I always find myself gripped the moment I start reading. The book would be of considerable interest to both adults and children, but I would advise that there are a few areas in which hunting is discussed where we learn of the Postosuchus dinosaur severing the neck of a female Coelophysis. The book tends to go into quite some detail about the attack and kill, which made my skin crawl, particularly as it is quite graphic. We learn how the corpse is cleaned and the picking of the bones and cleaning of the scales, which are nipped with the dinosaurs' front teeth. The book takes us through the long dry seasons, the heavy downpours and the significant climate changes, which took place over millions of years and the evolution of the dinosaurs.
This book is a truly awesome read and most certainly leaves me thinking every time I read it, particularly at the end when the dinosaurs became extinct where they all died within a very short space of time. I was fascinated to learn that there are over 80 theories put forward in relation to their extinction, which leaves me with many questions, which of course, nobody can answer. I cannot recommend this book highly enough both for educational and curiosity, as it has answered many of my burning questions, but has also given me food for thought. I cannot recall where I obtained my copy and have looked on Amazon for a current price and at the time of writing this fantastic book is listed from 1p for a used copy and £35 for a brand new one. However, I would advise that the inside sleeve of my book states £19.99, so I'm sure it could be obtained elsewhere for much less than Amazon's asking price for a new copy.
Written by Tim Haines
Published by BBC Worldwide Limited
I hope you found my review useful and thanks for reading.
This review will appear on both Dooyoo and Ciao under the same user name.
Although much younger children will enjoy looking at the pictures, I feel that most under age 10 will struggle reading this as it really is written for adults. What I do though is read it myself, condense the information into a few short sentences per page that my son can understand, and then tell him about the dinosaurs.
This book is based on the popular BBC programme of the same name. The book is illustrated with photographs of the dinosaurs created for the film, but they are so lifelike, it looks as if someone were able to travel back in time with a camera and snap photos of actual dinosaurs. what a wonderful improvement over many of the old hastily drawn dinosaurs in books when I was young.
I am afraid I can not offer a terribly scientific review of this book. My main interest in was just to offer more information on dinosaurs to my child, so please keep in mind this is just review from an average parent with no scientific back ground. I must say though, that is one of the reasons I really like this book. It is not written for the paleontologist or even university professor. It is written for ordinary everyday people like myself, and as such id both enjoyable to read and easy to understand.
The book starts 220 million years ago in the middle of the Triassic period with the emergence of the dinosaurs as the dominant species on earth. It gives an account as if a naturalist is observing these creatures in the wild, as to what the day might be like for the herd the writer is following. In this way the book is much like reading the accounts of a naturalist like Sir David Attenborough observing the natural world, except of course this world no longer exists. It also covers, the climate and weather, the plants and other creatures. Of course this means there is some speculation. For instance when the author describes the colouring and markings on a dinosaur, this is largely guess work as we really do not know what colour dinosaurs were. Also much of the descriptions of behaviour is taken from modern predators. The description of the Utha raptors hunting and social behaviour sounds very much like that of a wolf pack to me.
So perhaps the authors may guess some things wrong. In fact I find highly unlikely that he would get every guess on colouring, behaviour etc correct, but there really is no way to know for certain now. This book is not strictly facts, but it is all plausible and supported by scientific evidence. But it does make the book so much more readable, as you can really feel as if you are there, peering through the undergrowth, spying back through time.
The book has all sorts of other interesting information as well, such as parenting, vocalisation and speculation as to whether some of these creatures may have been warm blooded, and a nice section on the pack behaviour of utahraptors. There is also some mention of few animals besides reptiles. I quite liked the inclusion of a giant a voracious salamander with 10 cm teeth. As I keep salamanders myself, I could only imagine something like this.
The book comes to a close at the very end of the cretaceous period with the impact of comet which triggers the mass die out of the giants. they also provide evidence to support this theory, which is the dominant theory as to the extinction of the dinosaurs.
A few side bits:
The television programme was actually inspired by Jurassic Park and the book does include a nice snippet on midges trapped in amber, in reference to the movie. It does not speculate in anyway on possible cloning of the beast though :)
For those interested in how the models were made you can see a bit at this site: http://www.dinosaurlive.com/index.php/about-the-show/makingof/