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This book is titled 'Mega Beasts', a title which suits some of the subject matter, such as the wooly mammoth, or the much earlier and larger indricotherium which lived between the Late Oligocene and Early Miocene epochs . Indricotherium was 6 metres tall, but the tiny megazostrodon was only 13 cm in length. This book covers creatures of all shapes and sizes, many of which look as if they are the products of a very fertile imagination rather than real creatures. I had expected this book to cover the ice age mammals but these only account for two pages in this volume. Mega Beasts covers everything from pterosaurs, the first mammals to furry turtles and the dodo. In short this book is just a collection of the extremely odd in in prehistoric fauna.
I had purchased the other two volumes in this series, 'Encyclopedia Prehistorica' and my sons absolutely loved them. I have to admit I really enjoy reading the books myself. If I had not read the other books I would have been put off by the fact that this book only has 12 pages. Having read all three books though, I feel the page count is misleading. While this does only have 12 full sized pages, each one of those pages has small mini books with more pop ups and a great deal more information. While many pop up books rely only on the pop ups to sell the book, this series combines incredible pop ups with very detailed, well written facts. I have to admit, the pop ups are so good I would buy this book for the pop ups only. But at the same time, this is an incredible book that I find almost as fascinating as the children do, and I would certainly have bought this book without pop ups as well.
My children ( ages 3 and 6) both love this book, although the three year old is only allowed this with supervision. The book is well made, and the pop ups are sturdy as far as these things go, but it is quite easy for a very young child to unintentionally damage pop ups. At 3, my youngest is not able to understand the text, but he loves the creatures. I usually just tell him a bit about each one - something my oldest seems to have picked up on as I found them on sofa today with my 6 year old telling his brother about teh different beasts. The six year old is able to understand the text if I read it, but this book really does require a higher reading level. I would expect that a child would need to be at least 8, and quite possibly 10 to read this without help. Even as an adult I would have no hope of pronouncing most of the names - all of which seem to be incredibly long - without the very useful pronunciation guide. I wouldn't be surprised if I still get some wrong.
There are so many fascinating creatures in this book. There are many animals I had never heard of, like the aforementioned hairy turtle, which really isn't a turtle at all but a car sized relative of the armadillo. I just love this beast, as do my children. The mega sloth is brilliant too, and the children love the illustration which shows the creature with its arms out stretched and it's tongue sticking out. You could almost imagine it saying "nah ne nah ne nah ne". There are gophers with spiked horns on their heads, an elephant that appears to have tow trunks and the indricotherum which appears something like a cross between a rhino and a giraffe. Then of course we get the usual lions and tigers and bears, but much larger ones with very big teeth, and the wooly mammoth.
This was the most difficult of the books to find second hand. I really lucked out getting it for only £5, but used copies are few and far between and usually sell quite close to the full price of this book new £12 -£14). I can see why no one seems to want o sell this book. I expect this to be a firm favourite with my boys for many years to come. Boys seem to love the weird and unusual and this book certainly has plenty of both. Combine that with fierce creatures, brilliant pop ups and plenty of facts this book is sure to one with lasting appeal. In all honesty - I really enjoyed this book myself and can't really see this ever ending up in the ebay, charity shop or library stack. Even at £14 I think this book would be worth every penny.
It goes without saying that I would highly recommend this for children of all ages. But I also expect there are a fair number of adults who would enjoy this as well. As many adults do collect pop ups I would highly recommend this to add to any pop up book collection. I expect many adults who are just interested in paleontology and zoology would find this very interesting as well.