Wednesday, October 7, 2015

My 11th 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:

The best popular baby dino books, part 2 ( ): 5/5

Short version: As far as I know, there aren't any popular adult books about baby dinos (book chapters, yes, but not whole books). Therefore, Zoehfeld's "Dinosaur Parents, Dinosaur Young: Uncovering the Mystery of Dinosaur Families" (henceforth Parents) is 1) the best baby dino book for older kids, & 2) 1 of the best popular baby dino books period. I recommend reading Parents in conjunction with other, more recent books (E.g. Holtz's "Dinosaurs" in general & Chapter 36 in particular).

Long version: Read on.

Many popular baby dino books are OK, but not great. There are 3 main reasons for why I think that is: 1) They're mixed bags in terms of paleoart (Quoting Miller: "I bought the book expecting a more technical discussion of the animals discussed therein...but was surprised to find beautiful paintings of questionably-restored dinosaurs"); 2) They're confusing messes in terms of organization; 3) They fail to cover many baby dino-related subjects & those that are covered are done so in an insufficient manner (I.e. Sometimes, they simplify things to the point of being meaningless; Other times, they're just plain wrong). In this review, I list the 3 main reasons why I think Parents succeeds where said books fail.

1) Parents is very well-illustrated: Shillinglaw should illustrate more dino books; He's that good (E.g. See the very cute Hypacrosaurus on the back cover); You could say that he's the new McLoughlin with Parents basically being a more family-friendly version of "Archosauria: A New Look at the Old Dinosaur" (Google "Let's read _The Archosauria_!" for what I mean). My only gripe is that Shillinglaw didn't do both the black-&-white & full-color illustrations. Instead, Carrick did the full-color illustrations, & he's not that good (E.g. See the very derpy Maiasaura on the front cover).

2) Parents is very well-organized: Chapters 1-6 begin with 1) a day-in-the-life story of an Oviraptor father, & 2) the history of dino science from the 1840s to the 1970s, continue with descriptions of "how scientists are continu-ally making new discoveries and drawing new conclusions about what life was like for dinosaurs and their young", & end with the unsolved mysteries of "tyrannosaurs, stegosaurs, and the hundreds of other types of dinosaurs"; Said descriptions are arranged in roughly chronological order (I.e. 1st Maiasaura, then Hypacrosaurus, Drinker, & Troodon, & then Apatosaurus & Saltasaurus).

3) Parents is very complete & in-depth: For 1 (in reference to "complete"), using Holtz's "Dinosaurs" as a guide, Parents features representatives of 15 different dino groups; Compare that to the 6 different dino groups of Judge's "Born to Be Giants: How Baby Dinosaurs Grew to Rule the World"; For another (in reference to "in-depth"), see the Zoehfeld quote; Parents does more in 2 pages than Judge's book does in 4 pages. Chapter 4 is an especially good example of the latter because of the Orodromeus & Troodon story (I.e. "Another Mistake", which is often not told accurately in popular dino books; Google "Dino Data Adapted from Dino Data Activity" for more info).
Quoting Zoehfeld: "In 1986, in northern Montana, Dr. Horner discovered nests, eggs, embryos, and babies of another duckbill dinosaur, a crested lambeosaur called Hypacrosaurus...Dr. Horner and his crew found a large Hypacrosaurus nesting site, where a herd of a thousand or more must have returned each year to lay their eggs.
Early one nesting season, when the babies had just begun to hatch, the adults may have noticed the sky growing dark. Thick clouds of soot and ash spewed forth from volcanoes erupting just to the south of them. When hot cinders and ash began to rain down, the leaders of the herd may have used the echo chambers in their hollow nasal crests to sound a basso alarm call. They urged the mothers to abandon their nests and head north and east, away from the deadly downpour.
Today the entire nesting ground is covered by a layer of solidified volcanic sediment called bentonite, which "froze" the scene almost as it was at the time the adults abandoned it.
Not long after this discovery, Dr. Horner discovered another Hypacrosaurus rookery south of the first one. In Alberta, Canada, just north of the Montana border, Wendy Sloboda, then a high school student, discovered yet another.
Were the Hypacrosaurus helpless and nest-bound as tots, as the Maiasaura most certainly were? From the locations of the baby bones found around the rookeries, it is still not clear. But Dr. Horner thinks they must have been relatively helpless, like certain types of altricial birds, such as the American white pelican.These birds are nest-bound for only a short time, but for up to three months the youngsters stay together in the nesting colony, where the adults can bring them food and look after them.
Close study of the Hypacrosaurus babies' leg bones shows that they were made up of more calcified cartilage and less solid bone than would be expected in a precocial animal. Although there's no evidence that the little ones were completely nest-bound, they did stay within the confines of their nesting ground the way pelicans do today."

Disappointing ( ): 2/5

Short version: If you want the best summary of the geologic history & evolution of dinos for kids, get Bakker's "The Big Golden Book of Dinosaurs". Benton's "Dinosaurs: Living Monsters of the Past" (henceforth Past) looks good, but has no heart.

Long version: Read on.

Benton & Brusatte are consistently good sources for the specialist (E.g. See Brusatte's "Dinosaur Paleobiology"). However, they're also consistently not-so-good sources for casual readers/the enthusiast. I originally thought that Past was going to be the exception, mostly because of the beautiful paleoart (which is mostly that of Sibbick & Krb). Boy, was I wrong about Past!* Not only is Past as bad as expected overall, but worse in some ways. In this review, I list the 2 main reasons why I think Past is that bad.

1) As expected, the text is hit-&-miss in terms of getting the facts straight. What wasn't expected was the high number & degree of misses in the text. That of Chapter 3 is some of the worst: On page 28, it's claimed that Huayangosaurus was "found in the 1970s" (More like 1982), that Kentrosaurus was "only 2.5 metres…long" (More like 5 m long), that Stegosaurus "was 6 to 7 metres…long" (More like 9 m long), & that "the snout [of Huayangosaurus] is long" (It isn't); It's also worth mentioning that, on page 29, Benton misidentifies Kentrosaurus as Dacentrurus & vice versa despite having correctly identified Kentrosaurus on page 28.

2) As expected, the writing is annoyingly repetitive (E.g. Ornithopod chewing is described over & over again) & inconsistent (E.g. Chapter 2 begins with climate, flora, & fauna; Chapter 3 begins with climate & flora; Chapter 4 begins with climate & fauna; Chapter 5 begins with none). What wasn't expected was the plain toast-dryness of the writing. That of Chapter 1 (See the Benton quote) is some of the worst: On page 4, Benton takes 2 major theories of geology & biology (I.e. Radioactive decay & evolution, respectively) & makes them boring & meaningless (I.e. He defines them as "change, over time" & "change through time", respectively); That's when I realized that I was wrong about Past.

To sum up, Bakker put it best when he said, "We dino-scientists have a great responsibility: our subject matter attracts kids better than any other, except rocket-science" ( ). Past doesn't fulfill said responsibility.

*If you get the reference, give yourself a pat on the back.
Quoting Benton: "Dinosaurs lived on Earth long ago, during the Mesozoic Era, which is often known as the 'Age of the Dinosaurs'.The dinosaurs lived for 160 million years, eventually dying out 65 million years ago, long before the origin of humans 5 million years ago.
These vast amounts of time, measured in millions of years, have been based upon studies of rocks by geologists. Long ago, geologists realised that the Earth was very ancient, and that vast thicknesses of rocks have been deposited, with the oldest layers generally at the bottom of the pile. Exact ages of the rocks are found out by studies of rocks that have natural radioactivity. Radioactive elements are not stable, and they decay, or change, over time into other elements. The rates of decay are known, and it is possible to estimate the exact age of a rock sample by comparing the amount of a radioactive element left and the amount of the end product.
Fossils are also used in dating, and they can give quick and accurate age estimates, but not in millions of years. Fossils are the remains of once-living plants and animals which have been preserved in the rock. There is a very rich fossil record in the rocks, thousands of species having been preserved through the past 3,500 million years. The fossils give evidence for change through time, or evolution. Different groups come and go at specific times, and rocks of any particular age may contain specific fossils that are never found in rocks of any other age.
Fossil evidence, and exact age dating, form the basis of the geological time scale, an international standard. Time is divided into Eons, Eras, and Periods, and these may be further divided up into smaller units. This is a useful reference for geologists in all countries, and it is the time scale that is used to calibrate the evolution of life. The dinosaurs arose in the Late Triassic Period, ruled the Earth during the Jurassic and Cretaceous, and died out at the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary."