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Natural History (Smithsonian)

140 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0756667528
ISBN-10: 0756667526
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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 5 Up-A dazzling visual introduction to natural history. This oversize volume, which marks the centennial of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, begins with an explanation of how the information is arranged, including a discussion of the measurements, icons, and abbreviations used throughout the text. The first chapter offers a brief introduction to Earth, and its geology and life-forms, followed by separate, extensive chapters devoted to minerals, rocks, and fossils; microscopic life; plants; fungi; and animals ("the largest kingdom"). Each chapter consists of sections representing major taxonomic classifications and within these sections lower taxonomic groups are discussed. Numerous pictorial galleries highlight varieties of specific species. Scattered throughout are feature profiles that offer in-depth analyses of single specimens (white water lily, cane toad, etc.). Pages dedicated to a specific life-form include a chart that indicates phylum, class, orders, families, and species. The information provided for each entry (both common names and Latin names are included) is generally brief and limited to two or three sentences. The stunning color photographs (totaling more than 5000) and the volume's encyclopedic approach make it a welcome addition.-Maren Ostergard, King County Library System, Issaquah, WA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* An introductory visual guide to the natural world, this volume’s strength rests with original and compelling photographs and illustrations. A team of distinguished scientists renders the accompanying text informative yet concise and accessible to nonspecialists, including students and general readers. Six chapters make up the book. In the first, “Living Earth,” copiously illustrated introductory essays on topics such as climate change, evolution, and classification provide context. This is followed by chapters on “Minerals, Rocks, and Fossils”; “Microscopic Life”; “Plants”; “Fungi”; and “Animals,” offering picture galleries that profile about 5,000 specimens and living species ranging from topaz to oyster mushroom to sperm whale. Each chapter is divided into sections representing major groups (for example, “Invertebrates”) with an introduction highlighting the characteristics that define the group. Each subgroup (“Sponges,” “Insects”) also has its own introduction. For living species, “Classification” boxes display the current taxonomic hierarchy. Picture captions provide information such as size, habitat, and distribution. Topics of debate are interspersed in sidebars throughout the text; for example, “Did monocots have aquatic origins?” and “Are birds dinosaurs?” The remarkable color photographs and illustrations, commissioned for this work, depict the natural world in its amazing beauty and diversity. In “Feature Profiles,” close-up photographs provide detailed images of some of the world’s most interesting species, such as the fly agaric mushroom, the Mexican red-kneed tarantula, the Aldabra giant tortoise, and the six-banded armadillo. Appendixes include a 4-page glossary and a 24-page index of scientific and common names. Extensive scope and exceptional photographs distinguish this ambitious work. Succinct commentary, notable for its clarity and authority, deftly burnishes the visuals. Highly recommended for high-school and public libraries. --Nancy Cannon

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Product Details

  • Series: Smithsonian
  • Hardcover: 648 pages
  • Publisher: DK (October 4, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0756667526
  • ISBN-13: 978-0756667528
  • Product Dimensions: 10.3 x 1.7 x 12.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (140 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,380 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

83 of 84 people found the following review helpful By Johnny on October 17, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I am a man of nature.
So it's no suprise that it only took two minutes after it's discovery to officially want to add this to my compendium collection.
After a week, I manage to find and buy this book at Barnes n' Noble (cost me $50 - you'll get a much better deal on here!)

First off, I'm going to tell you know (though you probably already know), this book is FREAKIN' BIG!!!! Might as well be a college textbook! You'll need to find some (worthy) space in your bookshelf for it.

Secondly, the sheer number of species (and specimens, mind you) inside these covers in astounding. Compare a book from the same series (DK's Animal for example), which had about 2,000 species in it.
This tome has 5,000 (something you need to see in order to grasp the sheer quantity)! And not just animals... where else could you find a book with rocks, minerals, fossils, shells, microbes, fungi, plants, protists, and animals all in one!
It's taxonomically organized (with the system for rocks and minerals as well) starting with Bacteria & Archaea first, then Protists (yes, it uses the kingdom Protista - something I don't usually favor), then the plants take over for a good portion of the book (any lover of flowers is going to flip out), fungi proceed, then finally come the animals (which takes up half of the book - and I don't even mind). One thing I really enjoy is the fact that this is one of the only plant books I've seen were everything isn't organized for gardeners. And there are some very cool rocks and minerals in here.

Third, the format is reminicent of a Sears/Walmart catalog - the species group is listed, and then specimens abound to every last corner of the page. The photos (and illustrations for some) are wonderful and very clear.
Read more ›
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By wogan TOP 500 REVIEWER on October 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover
`Natural History' is, as it claims a visual guide, perhaps not the ultimate, but close and not everything - almost. Its chapter on fish seems a little lean, but most will not notice.
It is a big heavy, over 7 pounds, coffee table book. It does have some stunning pictures and lots of colored illustrations. Most of what it includes are sections on each page with coloured charts, pictures, and illustrations of many elements of the natural world; rocks, ferns, a variety of snails, birds of prey - it is filled with almost any living thing you could think of.
The maps are well done and it will do much to clear up any confusion one has on classifications. You could even accomplish much identification yourself of rocks and birds using its clear pictures.

There are sections on; the living earth, minerals, rocks and fossils, microscopic life, plants, fungi and animals including invertebrates, chordates, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.
There is a glossary and an index. It is an excellent reference and learning tool and of course has the expertise of the Smithsonian Institute behind it.
This is a book young children could learn from, but adults would not feel `talked" down to.
It would make a great addition to your home, school or as a Christmas present that should get much use.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Dan Hawkins on November 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The DK science books have set a standard that is hard to beat - and this is one of their best. Great photography and graphic design and just enough info to get you started on any subject. I can't reccomend this book with enough superlatives. An absolute joy!
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By ThirstyBrooks on November 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Smithsonian Natural History entertains but does not cover any specific topic systematically. It catalogs a wide variety of fields worth further investigation by any aspiring naturalist. The publisher's excellent use of white space highlights page after page of compelling photography.

This book offers a selection of the rich detail and well written descriptions the publisher's guidebooks provide. Smithsonian Natural History does not cover any one field comprehensively. The book's size makes it physically unwieldy for use as a field guide, so this offering will serve best as a coffee table book. The outstanding photography will appeal to children as young as middle schoolers, but the high quality description better matches the needs of readers at the high school level and above.

For those whose appetites for nature study are whetted by this gorgeous volume, the publisher offers many field guides that cover specific topics more comprehensively. To really learn this material, pick one of those field guides and go out and see the world. The publisher's well-photographed examples are important for distinguishing between two similar specimens, but they sometimes overpromise. I wish reality were as fabulous as these books imply, but this photography provides us with the fashion models of the animal world -- reality is a bit more prosaic.

Like a high fashion magazine, this is a great book to page through when you have time to kill, but people are unlikely to read it for its own sake.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Andrea Churchill on October 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have many of the DK books--History, Animal, Earth, Animal Life, Universe, etc. This book doesn't let you down. It is packed full of beautiful photographs of all different kinds of wildlife. I look at it for hours, and then go back to it and look at it again. It is amazing!!
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