Sunday, April 17, 2016

My 14th 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":
-"My 13th Pair of Reviews":

I wish I had this book as a kid ( ): 5/5

Short version: Waldrop/Loomis' "Ranger Rick's Dinosaur Book" (henceforth Ranger) is basically Wexo's "Zoobooks - Dinosaurs" (henceforth ZD) in book form, but better. I recommend reading Ranger in conjunction with other, more recent books (E.g. Gardom/Milner's "The Natural History Museum Book of Dinosaurs").

Long version: Read on.

If you're anything like me (I.e. A life-long dino fan born in the 1980s), you probably grew up with 1) "Ranger Rick" magazine, & 2) "Zoobooks" magazine.* ZD used to be my favorite issue of either magazine, but now my favorite is Ranger. Like ZD, Ranger is a natural history of dinos illustrated by Hallett, published by a wildlife organization, & consulted by Ostrom. In this review, I list the 3 main reasons why I think Ranger is even better than ZD.

1) Ranger is very complete & in-depth: For 1 (in reference to "complete"), using Holtz's "Dinosaurs" as a guide, Ranger features representatives of 10 different dino groups; Compare that to the 7 different dino groups of ZD; For another (in reference to "in-depth"), see the Waldrop/Loomis quote; Ranger does more in 1 page than ZD does in 2 pages ( ).

2) Ranger is very well-organized: Being well-organized is especially important to a natural history of dinos given that it's "designed to be read from start to finish as the developing story of a remarkable group of animals" ( ); Not only does Ranger have a chronological format, but each chapter begins with a day-in-the-life story & ends with a lead-in to the next chapter.

3) Ranger is very well-illustrated: In addition to Hallett, Ranger is illustrated by Akerbergs, Dawson (E.g. See the cover), Kish, Knight, & Zallinger; Dawson's paleoart is especially good at making reconstructed animals appear life-like (I.e. It "displays a superb attention to small details - in terms of the animals' anatomy...their interaction with the surrounding environment, and the environment itself");** It helps that Dawson illustrated all the day-in-the-life stories. My only gripe is that most of the sauropods & some of the ornithischians are depicted as dragging their tails.

*My sympathies to those who didn't grow up with "Classic Ranger Rick" ( ).

**Google "Vintage Dinosaur Art: De Oerwereld van de Dinosauriƫrs - Part 1".
Quoting Waldrop/Loomis: "Workers in a German quarry in 1861 uncovered a puzzle that has not been solved after more than 120 years. The puzzle was a new fossil that had a wishbone like a bird's and wings with feathers. It was a bird, the earliest ever found. It was named Archaeopteryx...the "ancient wing."
One of the puzzling things about this bird was its ancestors. To try to solve this puzzle, scientists checked its head, its tail, its hands, its feet. Finally, one man studied the fossil for two years and listed 21 ways that its bones matched those of the small, meat-eating dinosaurs called coelurosaurs (see pages 44-45).
Archaeopteryx was a very primitive bird. It has been called a missing link in the evolutionary chain between the dinosaurs and modern birds. In some ways it was like a dinosaur. In other ways it was like a bird. It had teeth and a bony tail like a dinosaur. Birds today don't have teeth, and their tails are just long feathers. But, like birds, Archaeopteryx had wings and feathers.
Scientists still don't know for sure why this ancient bird had feathers or whether or not it could fly. Feathers help birds in many ways. Of course, they help birds fly. They also insulate them and help them stay warm. Perhaps feathers began as insulators. Small, warmblooded dinosaurs would have lost heat very quickly. Feathers would have helped keep their bodies at a constant temperature.
The feathers might have served other uses. Some people think that Archaeopteryx ran along the ground, chasing insects and other small prey. When it got close enough, it used its wide, feathered wings to scoop up its meal.
Archaeopteryx probably could not fly, at least the way most birds do today. It did not have the right bones for holding the muscles needed to flap its wings.
But Archaeopteryx might have been able to glide. That's what flying squirrels do. Some scientists think the bird climbed branches in search of prey, then spread its wings and floated gently back to the ground. Other scientists think it lived only on the ground."

OK in the 1980s, but not in the 2000s ( ): 2/5

As you may remember, I grew up with "Zoobooks" magazine ( ). Wexo's "Zoobooks - Dinosaurs" is my favorite issue of said magazine, so I was very excited to get Wexo's "Where Did Dinosaurs Come From?" (henceforth WD). I originally thought that WD was going to be the sequel issue I've always wanted. Boy, was I wrong about WD! WD would've been OK in the 1980s, but not in the 2000s. Switek's WD review ( ) sums up most of the reasons why, but not the most important reason. In this review, I point you to Switek's WD review & add my own thoughts as well:
-The most important reason is that WD was billed as new when it actually was 20 years old: 1st, see the back cover; Then, compare that to "t-rex, prehistoric #zoobooks, #1989. #science!" ( ). This explains most of the inaccuracies. However, there are several weird bits throughout WD that can't be explained by its outdatedness (E.g. See the Wexo quote).
-I'm surprised that Switek didn't say more about the paleoart given that, to quote Switek ( ), "Everyone knows that half the fun of paleontology is imagining how prehistoric creatures looked and moved." In addition to Sibbick, WD is illustrated by Orr, Francis, & Newman. Sibbick's paleoart is especially noteworthy: For 1, to paraphrase Vincent ( ), "The illustrations in [WD] show a marked improvement over those in the Norman encyclopedia from just [4] years prior. They demonstrate a stage in the evolution from Sibbick's earlier stodge-o-saurs to the altogether more active, muscular and modern-looking restorations of the '90s"; For another, it's very jarring to see Sibbick's T.rex in the style of Hallett's.
-In some ways, WD is better than the original (E.g. The main stuff is more well-organized, beginning with "some of the earliest creatures on earth" & ending with the Age of Dinosaurs). In other ways, WD is worse than the original (E.g. The sidebar stuff is more hit-&-miss).* In still other ways, they're about the same (E.g. Both refer to T.rex by different genus names).
-If you want a good alternative to WD, get Bakker's "The Big Golden Book of Dinosaurs": For 1, not only does Bakker's book cover much of the same background info, but also goes well beyond;** For another, Bakker's book doesn't shy away from discussing evolution, using "the dreaded e-word" multiple times.

*While the hits really hit (E.g. A comparison of sauropods' teeth & garden tools), the misses really miss (E.g. A race between a man & various theropods in which the man is winning & the theropods are scattered all over with no apparent rhyme or reason).

**To quote Switek, "The trouble is that by the time Wexo gets to the dinosaurs, relatively little time is spent on explaining how different groups of dinosaurs evolved or even when different kinds of dinosaurs lived…The book then abruptly ends with no concluding section tying the lessons of the book together. Likewise, the fact that the book never discusses feathered dinosaurs or that birds are living theropod dinosaurs is a major flaw." Bakker's book does the exact opposite of all that & MUCH more.
Quoting Wexo: "For a long time, the simple plants fed themselves on chemicals that were dissolved in the water. Later, they started to make food from sunlight and chemicals, as plants do today. But they did not eat each other…Then one day, for reasons that are not clear, one plant did eat another plant…and thereby became the 1st animal. Eating other plants was a good way to get food. For this reason, more and more new species of "animals" came along as time passed. Some new species of animals had the first mouths, to eat plants more easily."