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My son requested dinosaurs as a study topic awhile back , so at the moment, we are in the middle of a unit study on dinosaurs. This particular book is more of an adult reference book, although I am sure it would be loved by children from about age 1o and up as well. My sons are much younger, and I find this book a bit to detailed for them, so I read it myself and condense the information, telling them about the different types of dinosaur.
The Ultimate book of Dinosaurs has 260 pages and I think it is exceptionally well laid out. The book begins with the simple question What is a Dinosaur? Well to be perfectly honest, before I started teaching my sons about dinosaurs - I would have got this question wrong. I thought all the reptiles in this time period were dinosaurs. They are not. Only the land animals are classed as dinosaurs, with the flying creatures and marine animals having different classifications. Next there is a really nice spiral which shows an example of a life form for each era in earths history from Precambrian ( which looks rather like a badly drawn worm - but the text assures me is a microscopic life form) right up Quaternary, illustrated by a modern human skull. A section on the evolution of life is also included which may offend some who believe otherwise. I personally believe in creation, but think science and religion ca co- exist. My sons will be taught both theories, and told that while I believe God created life - I haven't a clue how he did it - evolution may have been his method.
This is really one of the first books I have seen with this kind of detail on life before the dinosaurs, showing bizarre fish like amphibian, and one of the first reptiles, which looks remarkably like our pet salamanders, and other creatures I would have in my ignorance classed as dinosaurs before reading this book. Although short, this section alone would have made the book worth purchasing to me.
No book on dinosaurs would be complete without an explanation as to how they are classified, as bird like or lizard like by the design of their hips. This book gives a fairly detailed explanation, as well as several examples. The book next describes dinosaur life styles - or how we think they lived and hunted, speculation on movement, speed, and how they were physically adapted for various tasks, such as hunting. There is also speculation on their vision, what sounds they might have made, colouration and intelligence, using clues from modern animals for comparison. There are sections on skin and feathers, including evidence that T- Rex hatchlings may have been feathered, and so many other things I never knew about the creatures.
The second half of the book is devoted to an alphabetic description of each type of dinosaur from Allosaurus to Zigongosaurus, followed by information on other prehistoric reptiles, the death of the dinosaurs and modern paleontology. My sons like looking through this section, and I can tell them about their favourites. My six year old especially likes ankylosaurus as he says it looks like a Bakugan, but is also fascinated by Baryonyx. He also really likes looking at the pictures that show a comparison of each dinosaurs size by placing their silhouette next to that of a human. I quite like this as well as it gives you a real grasp of how large these creatures really were. I can't quite visualise 82 feet, but seeing the human dwarfed below Brachiosaurus, reaching about half way between it's ankle and knee gives me some idea. I did have to check the size of Velociraptor against other sources, although I think i had read before they were really quite small. It seems Jurassic Park not only put them in an ear they did not exist, but also changed the size, as well as facial features, making them into something more like a cross between Troodon and Velociraptor for dramatic purposes. That will teach me to think Hollywood depictions are accurate! I also like the timeline that clearly shows in which era each dinosaur lived.
I can not honestly say I would have bought this book to read myself, had I not been trying to learn enough about this subject to be capable of teaching it to my son, but I did enjoy the book and learn a great deal from it. I would certainly recommend it to adults who are still interested in dinosaurs, as well as parents who want to teach their children about the creatures. My own sons like this, and many smaller children will enjoy just the pictures, but if purchased for a child to read alone, I would recommend an age range of 10+, although some 8 year olds who are fascinated by dinosaurs may stretch their reading ability enough to get through this.
The only drawback at all to this book is that the illustrations are all painted. They are very well done, but Walking With Dinosaurs and the DK books have spoiled me with photographic illustrations of incredible life like models.
I bought this for £2.00 at a boot sale but second hand copies can be purchased from Amazon for as little as £1.54.