Sunday, January 24, 2016

My 13th 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:
-"My 11th Pair of Reviews":
-"My 12th Pair of Reviews":

Interesting ( ): 5/5

Short version: Sereno's "How Tough Was a Tyrannosaurus?" (henceforth Tough) is MUCH better than a children's dino Q&A book has any right to be. I recommend reading Tough in conjunction with other, more recent books (E.g. Holtz's "Dinosaurs" in general & Chapter 17 in particular).

Long version: Read on.

To quote the Nostalgia Critic ( ), "By all outward appearances, I should hate How to Train Your Dragon. This has so many things I can't stand in a movie...But for some reason, here, it really, really works. There's just something about the way this story is told and presented and paced that just really, really gets it." The same goes for Tough. In this review, I list the 3 main reasons why I think that is.

1) As you may remember, I generally dislike the dino Q&A genre for 3 main reasons: 1) Redundant questions; 2) Vague answers; 3) Bad Q&As (I.e. Stupid or misleading questions & misleading or wrong answers). What's interesting about Tough is that the questions are precise, the answers are concise, & the Q&As are good.

2) I generally dislike children's dino Q&A books for being poorly-illustrated, among other things. You'd think the same would go for Tough given Courtney's previous work ( ). What's interesting about Tough is that "the a marked improvement over those...from just [1 year] prior. They demonstrate a stage in the evolution from [Courtney's] earlier stodge-o-saurs to the altogether more active, muscular and modern-looking restorations of the '90s" ( ).* My only gripes are the slightly cartoonish anatomies (E.g. See the T.rex on the front cover, which has a squared-off jaw) & the anachronistic assemblages of animals (E.g. On pages 8-9, there's T.rex, Corythosaurus, Astrodon, Ankylosaurus, Protoceratops, & Oviraptor).

3) I generally dislike children's dino Q&A books for being poorly-organized, among other things. It doesn't help that their titles are often based on random Q&As (E.g. The title of my next review's book). What's interesting about Tough is that its title isn't just a random Q&A, but the overarching theme. You'd think I'd have a major problem with that given that T.rex is the most overexposed & overstudied dino. What's doubly interesting about Tough is that it uses T.rex as a vehicle to address a broader range of topics (E.g. See the Sereno quotes, which are from the 1st & last pages of Tough).

*Don't take my word for it, though. Google "How Tough Was a Tyrannosaurus? by Mrs Smart on Prezi" & see for yourself.
Quoting Sereno: "Did all the dinosaurs live at the same time?
Dinosaurs lived on earth for many millions of years, but no one kind of dinosaur existed for the entire time. Fierce Tyrannosaurus…for example, appeared only near the very end of the dinosaur age. Many other dinosaurs had already appeared and become extinct…died out." 
Quoting Sereno: "Are any animals alive today related to the dinosaurs?
Yes. The ancestry of birds can be traced back to small flesh-eating relatives of Tyrannosaurus. In the long view of time, birds are really feathered dinosaurs!"

Like playing Battle Kid: Fortress of Peril ( ): 1/5

Short version: The combination of unanswered questions, wrongly-answered questions, & everything in between makes reading Theodorou's "I Wonder Why Triceratops Had Horns: and Other Questions about Dinosaurs" (henceforth Wonder) like playing "Battle Kid: Fortress of Peril" ( ). If you want to know "Why Triceratops Had Horns", google "Old wounds show that Triceratops used its horns for combat".

Long version: Read on.

As you may remember, I generally dislike the dino Q&A genre for 3 main reasons: 1) Redundant questions; 2) Vague answers; 3) Bad Q&As (I.e. Stupid or misleading questions & misleading or wrong answers). However, when I originally said that, I was specifically referring to adult dino Q&A books. Children's dino Q&A books in general & Wonder in particular are even worse:
-Redundant questions? Uncheck (There are only 30 questions), but Wonder more than makes up for this in the following ways.
-Vague answers? Check times infinity! The 1st Theodorou quote is the worst because 1) the main text completely dodges 1 of the biggest questions in science, & 2) the sidebar text only mentions invalid hypotheses (I.e. Poisonous plants & periodic comet showers).
-Bad Q&As? Check times infinity! The 2nd Theodorou quote is the worst because it fails on many levels: It contradicts itself from a previous Q&A (See the 1st Theodorou quote; If "all the dinosaurs vanished", then there wouldn't be "any dinosaurs around today"); It fails to understand how evolution works (If birds "developed from dinosaurs", then they ARE "true dinosaurs"); It avoids using the word "evolution" (as does the rest of Wonder); It fails to understand that "developed" =/= "evolved" ( ).

But wait, there's more!:
-Wonder is a confusing mess in terms of organization. This is especially apparent in the Q&As about finding & reconstructing dino fossils: For 1, you have to find dino fossils BEFORE you can reconstruct them; For another, the text explaining said processes is scattered all over with no apparent rhyme or reason.
-Wonder's more realistic reconstructions are shameless rip-offs of more famous reconstructions, just plain outdated/abominable, or some combination of both. This is especially apparent in the Apatosaurus reconstructions: For 1, they're shameless rip-offs of the "Safari Ltd Carnegie Scale Model Apatosaurus", Sibbick's "Normanpedia" Apatosaurus, & Hallett's "Zoobooks - Dinosaurs" Apatosaurus; For another, they combine "a Sibbickian concentric ring skin pattern with a finely polished finish reminiscent of a 4x4 vehicle purchased by a money-crazed, wantonly aggressive businessperson" ( ).
-Wonder's more cartoony reconstructions are even worse: For 1, not only are most of them unrecognizable as the genera they're intended to represent, but the others are only recognizable because they're shameless rip-offs of more famous reconstructions; For another, not only are all of them unfunny, but some of them are also very disturbing (E.g. Why are a bat & a pterosaur giving each other "do me" eyes?; Why was that woman drilling into a living Ankylosaurus?; etc).
Quoting Theodorou: "What happened to the dinosaurs?
Something very strange happened 65 million years ago. All the dinosaurs vanished, together with all the flying reptiles and most of the sea reptiles. Know one knows for sure what happened to them." 
Quoting Theodorou: "Are there any dinosaurs around today?
Although there aren't any true dinosaurs alive today, we do have some of their relatives. Scientists think that birds developed from dinosaurs, because their skeletons are so similar. So look carefully the next time you see a bird nesting in a tree or hopping across the grass!"