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After reading the first book in this series, my sons were keen to try the next. I had some reservations about the first book, and I do think it had some major flaws - but it also had some very strong points as well and I felt this series might have some real promise. My sons love dinosaurs and prefer adventure books to the sugary sweet children's storybooks that flood the market. I am always on the look out for truly inspiring books for boys. Although book 1 in this series had major flaws, it also seemed to tap into children's' fantasies and I could really see the series going somewhere. I liked the idea of photographs as illustrations. It seems a great way to bring a story like this to life. I loved the fact the authors have chosen all topics that would appeal to boys such as dinosaurs and set the books up as adventures in which adults play minor roles. It does seem to be a home grown type book - something I expect was produced on a family PC. I couldn't help but hope after the first book they would be able to afford better photographic equipment and editing. But regardless of other factors - the boys really enjoyed the first book, and if they enjoyed this book as much - that would be good enough for me, even if this book cost me twice as much (Just over £6 - which is still £4 under the rrp for a new book).
When this arrived in the post, both of my sons happily turned off the telly and sat down to listen to the story. It starts off well enough - the children wake up to a huge Tyrannosaurus Rex peeking through their bedroom windows. My sons found this part exciting, but I expect some children might find this a bit disturbing. I was disappointed though, that a large ad cut into a good bit of the first illustration. But again, the children hardly noticed, so I could let this pass. Unfortunately, the photography problems evident in the first volume are equally bad - if not worse in this book. I can't help but wonder if they were really unable to get a decent shot, or perhaps the blurring is meant to be artistic. At any rate, it does detract from the book. If you have ever tried on someone else's prescription glasses, especially if it is a strong prescription, that will give you the perfect idea of what these illustrations are like. The illustrations are basically photographs with an image of a Tyrannosaurus Rex superimposed over them. In many cases though, the effect is very poor. It just looks out of place and reminds me of when my husband cut out a picture of my oldest, laid it over a cartoon photo and scanned them to make a cartoon picture with my son in it. Furthermore, it really looks as if the illustrations were meant to be a different size and were randomly lopped off during the printing process. Nothing is centred, random bits of the dinosaur appear in the pictures and it just looks wrong. Finally, the blurring gives me a sore head, especially when coupled with white text on a glossy black background.
But what really let this book down is the storyline. It just went too far, as the children take on the T-Rex, battling it and getting the better of this beast by outmaneuvering it on bicycles, to one catching a ride on a passing Quetzalcoatus ( which would be rather like a rabbit catching a ride with a peregrine falcon). Apparently even the authors do not have any idea how Quetzalcoatus fits into the storyline as the text is interrupted for another advertisement - this time advertising a contest on their web page, with a prize for anyone who can come up with a good explanation for beast's arrival. From that point on the story only gets worse. My oldest son lost interest as the story became too far fetched, even for an imaginative child. My youngest very well may have enjoyed this more had the illustration been better. Both boys listened to the entire story, but seemed disappointed as it ended. I'm afraid the ending is very sugary sweet and saccharin coated, but on the last page we see the time portal open again - conveniently onto the next book in the series.
I had hoped for some improvement in this book, but if anything the technical expertise has declined significantly. In all honesty I could find a half dozen teens who could do a far better job on page layout and design. The illustration can only be described as awful. That only leaves the story, which unfortunately is very weak. Add to this the excessive use of advertising throughout the book, although at least this time it is primarily in the text section, rather than illustrations, and I'm afraid this book has not got a great deal going for it.
I have given it two stars instead of 1. The premise is still basically good, a good editor might well have been able to save this book, but I wish I had not bought it. At over £6, I could have had a Project X book - something tried and true. I still can't help hoping they have ironed out the difficulties and the other books in the series might be better. I don't really want to spend my money to find out though. This book still sits on the shelf. The boys have only listened to it once. I have brought it down myself a few times and asked if they wanted to hear it. My three year old always runs and grabs some other book instead, but I think my six year old sums it up well with this statement -