Monday, November 20, 2017

My 21st Pair of Reviews

As an Art Evolved member, I post a pair of my reviews here every so often, the 1st being positive & the 2nd being negative. I'd greatly appreciate you reading & voting "Yes" for said reviews in the bolded links below. Besides wanting to make sure said reviews give a good idea of what to expect, they need all the "Yes" votes they can get because 1) the 1st is for a great book that deserves more attention, & 2) the 2nd is outnumbered by opposing reviews (which don't give a good idea of what to expect). Many thanks in advance.

P.S. For my previous reviews, see the following posts:
-My 1st-10th Pairs of Reviews: http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2015/06/my-10th-pair-of-reviews.html
-My 11th-20th Pairs of Reviews: http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2017/09/my-20th-pair-of-reviews.html

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Dino ecology yay! ( https://www.amazon.com/review/RP5K90YL2VODH/ref=pe_1098610_137716200_cm_rv_eml_rv0_rv ): 5/5

Bonner's "Dining With Dinosaurs: A Tasty Guide to Mesozoic Munching" (henceforth Guide) is basically a cross between Chapter 5 of Sampson's "Dinosaur Odyssey: Fossil Threads in the Web of Life" (I.e. "Solar Eating") & the "Dinosaur Block Party" episode of "Dinosaur Train", but better. In this review, I list the 2 main reasons why I think that is.

1) Like "Solar Eating", Guide examines the different trophic levels of Mesozoic ecosystems, beginning with "mega carnivores" (E.g. T.rex) & ending with "trashivores" (I.e. Detritivores & decomposers). Also like "Solar Eating", Guide explains how food webs & photosynthesis work. In fact, Guide does the latter even better: For 1, instead of using a trophic pyramid to explain food webs, Guide uses a trophic layer cake (To paraphrase Gaffigan, "[Pyramids] can't compete with cake"); For another, instead of explaining photosynthesis in a paragraph of text, Guide explains it in a recipe with step-by-step directions & pictures showing how to create "SUGAR FROM SUNSHINE".

2) Like "Dinosaur Block Party", Guide is hosted by a human & a dino (I.e. Bonner & "her Microraptor pal"), who compare the features of different organisms in each trophic level. Also like "Dinosaur Block Party", Guide reconstructs entire Mesozoic ecosystems (E.g. That of the Jehol Group) & interviews experts about the science behind said reconstructions (I.e. "Ask a Scientist"). In fact, Guide does the latter even better: For 1, Guide's reconstructions are similarly cartoony, but MUCH more accurate; "The insectivores" is an especially good example of that ( https://hannahbonnerblog.files.wordpress.com/2016/07/featured-slider-dinning-2.jpg?w=768 ); For another, Guide's interviews don't just tell about said science, but also show it; "Mini carnivores and omnivores" is an especially good example of that ( https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-SgRrZOyjLms/WBFpnyKYTwI/AAAAAAAAHLg/lrNewyoVoT0Pt5drkbOWZk3GJZoq_c_TQCLcB/s1600/dining%2Bwith%2Bdinosaurs%2BDSC01790.JPG ).

My only nit-picks with Guide are the paleoart (which, while still good, is sketchier & less defined than Bonner's previous work) & the lack of explanatory/identifying text in some parts (which, while few & far between, is still weird for a book both by Bonner & for older kids).* With that in mind, I recommend reading Guide as 1) an introduction to dino ecology for younger kids, & 2) a transition to other, more adult books (E.g. Naish/Barrett's "Dinosaurs: How They Lived and Evolved" in general & Chapter 4 in particular) for older kids.

*In reference to the paleoart, don't take my word for it. Compare the cover of Guide to that of Bonner's "When Fish Got Feet, When Bugs Were Big, and When Dinos Dawned: A Cartoon Prehistory of Life on Earth". In reference to the lack of explanatory/identifying text, I'm specifically referring to "The raptors: midsize predators" & "Who ate who"/"Who eats who today?": The former makes a "Raptor Prey Restraint" reference ("The raptors couldn't fly, but feathered arms may have been used...for keeping their balance during an attack"), but doesn't explain it; The latter are meant to draw parallels between Mesozoic & modern ecosystems, yet only "Who ate who" identifies the different organisms in its ecosystem.

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Where's the substance? ( https://www.amazon.com/review/R2D7VXPQ8H787T/ref=pe_1098610_137716200_cm_rv_eml_rv0_rv ): 2/5

If you want a substantial children's dino book about what we do & don't know, get Kudlinski's "Boy, Were We Wrong About Dinosaurs!" (henceforth Boy) & read it in conjunction with other, more recent books (E.g. Holtz's "Dinosaurs"). It helps that Kudlinkski & Schindler are 1) very well-read, as indicated by the bibliography, & 2) collaborators with experts (I.e. Brinkman, Butler, & Norell). I can't say the same about Hort & O'Brien. As far as I know, Hort's "Did Dinosaurs Eat Pizza?: Mysteries Science Hasn't Solved" (henceforth Pizza) has neither a bibliography nor any expert collaboration & it shows in the lack of substance. In this review, I list the 3 main indications of that lack of substance.

1) Unlike Boy (which has a roughly chronological format, beginning with the discovery of Iguanodon & ending with the discovery of the Chinese feathered dinos), Pizza consists of a bunch of so-called "Mysteries Science Hasn't Solved" scattered all over with no apparent rhyme or reason. Each mystery is illustrated with dinos doing things we know they didn't do, so maybe Pizza's title was supposed to tie all the mysteries together. However, since Pizza's content has nothing to do with eating pizza, it's just a confusing mess.

2) Unlike Boy (which is illustrated with mostly-good cartoon dinos & page-by-page comparisons of what people used to think vs. what we think now), Pizza is illustrated with mostly-bad cartoon dinos (E.g. O'Brien's T.rex is basically a cartoon version of Solonevich's Antrodemus: https://chasmosaurs.blogspot.com/2013/08/vintage-dinosaur-art-dinosaurs-and-more.html ). Not only are the dinos themselves bad, but they make a lot of the text misleading: It's claimed that "different scientists can disagree by as much as [20 or 30] tons in estimating weights"; While this is technically true when it comes to sauropods, it's illustrated with a Styracosaurus (which weighed between 1 & 4 tons) outweighing an entire family farm.

3) Unlike Boy (which has mostly-accurate text that uses multiple lines of evidence to show why we think what we think), Pizza has a lot of misleading/wrong text, partly because of the aforementioned illustrations, & partly because it refers to many non-mysteries as mysteries (hence the "so-called" in indication #1 above). This is especially apparent in the text about T.rex & birds (E.g. See the Hort quotes, which fail on many levels).*

*They fail to get the facts straight (E.g. Giganotosaurus & Spinosaurus were larger; To quote Hendrickson, "I feel very sure, as do 99 percent of all dinosaur paleontologists, that T. rex was a predator"); They fail to understand how ecology works (To quote GSPaul, "The idea that animals as big as most theropods were true scavengers is ecologically unfeasible"); They fail to understand how evolution works (If "birds evolved from dinosaurs," then they ARE "considered dinosaurs"); They fail to understand that, "scientifically, traditions are an idiot thing" ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X7HmltUWXgs ); They fail to understand that, traditionally, "the word dinosaur" refers to non-bird dinos, not "extinct dinosaur species of the Mesozoic Era" (which include many bird species).
Quoting Hort: "Tyrannosaurus rex may have been the largest meat eater ever. But the jury is still out on whether T. rex mostly hunted for its food or mostly scavenged to find dinner that was already dead." 
Quoting Hort: "Most scientists now agree that birds evolved from dinosaurs, and a convincing case can be made that, as long as birds survive, dinosaurs aren't really extinct. Since there is still some disagreement on whether birds should be considered dinosaurs, I have followed tradition in using the word dinosaur to refer only to extinct dinosaur species of the Mesozoic Era."

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