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No Feathered Dinosaurs
on June 27, 2008
See all my reviews of dinosaur books.
"National Geographic Dinosaurs" is aimed perfectly at the new student (aged 8-12). It's illustrations are vivid and the information is well-pitched. The only problem is this book was originally published in 1999 so feathers don't appear on dinosaurs like Therizinosaurus or the dromeosaurs. This edition was reprinted in 2006, and unfortunately there are still no feathers.
At almost 200 pages in length, there are thicker books. However, with 120 pages dedicated to dinosaur profiles, there are enough dinosaurs to satisfy the new student.
Typically, there are a series of chapters that provide a context, followed by the dinosaur profiles. "Nat Geo Dinosaurs" contextual chapters include 'What is a Dinosaur?'; 'The Age of the Dinosaurs' - info on the Mesezoic era and other creatures - marine and flying; 'Dinosaur Sites'- key fossil sites; 'Discovering Dinosaurs'; 'Reconstructing Dinosaurs'; 'Dinosaur biology and behaviour'; 'How they Lived' - maternal instincts, hunting and fighting, arms and armor, diet, size and weight, movement; 'Classification' with flowcharts. Overall, these chapters hold-up reasonably well with other similar books, especially the classification pages. After the profiles there are chapters on extinction and dinosaur films.
The book then goes into genus profiles (usually of one page per dinosaur, sometimes two) of the bird-hipped dinosaurs for 50 pages then the lizard-hipped dinosaurs for another 60 pages. Each of these pages contains a Fact File with a grid showing the size of the dinosaur against a 6 foot man. Included in the Fact File is: Genus; Classification; Length; Weight; (When it) Lived; and where it was found (with a world map). Also included is a colour illustration of the dinosaur in a profile pose. The information is generally 3 to 4 paragraphs long and is very basic science. Normally there is information on distinguishing features and some comparison with cousins. Unfortunately, single dinosaurs are not covered in detail; it is only the genus - so if you are looking on the Tyrannosaurus page, you wont find anything on each of the tyrannosaurs (like Albertosaurus or Tarbosaurus). What you get is pretty much T.rex disguised as a generalised tyrannosaur.
Where I really think the book falls down is in it's interpretations of dinosaur behaviour and adaptations. There is quite a lot of information presented as fact when it is pure speculation. Also, there isn't any balance in arguments. For example, the profile on Carnotaurus states when mentioning its short snout 'that it could have got twisted and bent, particularly in struggles with large animals' suggsting that 'Cartnotaurus did not often attack animals of the same size or larger than itself, as its skull could not withstand such forces'. This is only providing one side of the argument (and the weaker side at that). There is currently strong debate about the diet of Carnotaurus due to the argument of how strong its jaws actually were, and whether it hunted in packs. I prefer information that is more balanced like the more accurate "The Kingfisher Illustrated Dinosaur Encyclopedia" by David Burnie. The information in "Nat Geo Dinosaur", however, is way more realistic than Gee and Rays "A Field Guide to Dinosaurs", but not as adequate as Parker's "Dinosaurus" which has individual species profiled.
Overall, I do "The Kingfisher Illustrated Dinosaur Encyclopedia" by David Burnie over this book due to its superior information, and perhaps "A Field Guide to Dinosaurs" by Gee as the illustrations are more up to date.