Sunday, August 14, 2016

My 15th 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":
-"My 14th Pair of Reviews":,204,203,200_.jpg

This book would make a great exhibit ( ): 5/5

Short version: The best exhibits are attractive, brief, & clear (I.e. The ABCs of exhibit design). Abramson et al.'s "Inside Dinosaurs" (henceforth ID) takes the AMNH's best dino exhibits & combines them into the AMNH's best children's dino book.

Long version: Read on.

As you may have noticed, I usually review non-fiction dino books that either don't get enough praise for being good or don't get enough criticism for being bad. What's interesting about ID is that it got a lot of praise for being very well-illustrated, but little-to-no praise for being very well-organized & thematic. Put another way, to quote Ham (See "Environmental Interpretation: A Practical Guide for People with Big Ideas and Small Budgets"), the other Amazon Reviewers "worried more about the "A" than they did about the "B" and "C."" In this review, I focus on the "B" & "C" & why I think they make ID great.

1) Like a great exhibit, ID is very brief/well-organized: To quote Ham, "Brief exhibits are well organized and simple; they contain five or fewer main ideas and only enough text to develop the theme; rather than having a lot of words, they show details visually; they don't appear like they require a lot of work from the viewer". That's exactly what ID does: Not only does ID contain 5 main ideas as outlined on the 1st inside flap, but also 10 fold-out pages; Not only do said pages "allow kids to dig deeper into the topics and enjoy amazing illustrations", but also make ID interactive (Quoting Ham: "Besides being more enjoyable, interactive exhibits are better "teachers" than static ones"); This reminds me of the new "DK Eyewitness" books, but more engaging.

2) Like a great exhibit, ID is very clear/thematic: To quote Ham, "Clear exhibits contain a theme that is so conspicuous it can be recognized and understood in only a second or two." That's exactly what ID does: As outlined on the 1st inside flap, "This amazing book will give you the inside scoop on [dinos]...As a daring insider, you'll walk in the steps of these astonishing creatures"; The opening pages reinforce the "inside scoop" part of the theme (See the 1st Abramson et al. quote), while the closing pages reinforce the "daring insider" part of the theme (See the 2nd Abramson et al. quote); This reminds me of the "Dinosaur Train" series (Quoting Sampson: "Get outside, get into nature, and make your own discoveries!"), but for older kids.

If I could, I'd give ID a 4.5/5. My only gripes are the non-maniraptoran reconstructions (some of which have shrink-wrapped heads &/or too many claws) & the lack of pronunciations (especially of Chinese names). However, for the purposes of this review, I'll round up to 5/5. 2 more things of note: 1) There are direct & indirect references to the AMNH's "Hall of Dinosaurs", "Fighting Dinos", & "Dinosaurs: Ancient Fossils, New Discoveries"; 2) The AMNH keeps updates on "American Museum of Natural History" when parts of ID become outdated.
Quoting Abramson et al.: "Let's learn to look through a paleontologist's eyes and take a trip back to the time when fierce Albertosaurus stalked prey in the forests, spike-frilled Styracosaurus grazed in the ferns, groups of Corythosaurus hung out, and early birds darted through the sky. Join us as we explore the world of the dinosaur to get an inside look at the lives of these amazing creatures from long ago."
Quoting Abramson et al.: "The discovery of new dinosaur fossils can happen almost anywhere and at any time. Amateur dinosaur hunters have discovered many fossils and even whole new species. The bones of the dinosaur Bambiraptor were found by a fourteen-year-old boy on his family's ranch in Montana. So if you have exposed sedimentary rock in your backyard, don't be afraid to get out there and try to make your very own dinosaur discovery. Don't have any sedimentary rock nearby? Look at the trees…the birds you see are your very own dinosaur discoveries."

The worst alternative ( ): 1/5

For as long as there has been "Dinosaur (DK Eyewitness Books)" (henceforth DD), there have been wannabes. As much as I love DD, I understand why readers would want an alternative: For 1, see the Ben quote; What Ben says about "the AMNH fossil halls" goes for DD; For another, DD is a mixed bag in terms of paleoart.* However, as far as I know, Abramson et al.'s "Inside Dinosaurs" is the only good alternative. Long's "Dinosaurs (Insiders)" (henceforth DI) is the worst of all the other alternatives. In this review, I list the 2 main reasons why I think that is, besides the text.**

1) Unlike DD, DI is an annoying & confusing mess in terms of writing & organization. In reference to "annoying...writing", this is especially apparent in the sub-chapter about the dino extinction because 1) the main text explains nothing about the science behind the dino extinction story, & 2) the sidebar text needlessly re-tells said story. In reference to "confusing...organization", this is especially apparent in the sub-chapters about studying & finding/reconstructing dino fossils because 1) you have to find dino fossils BEFORE you can study/reconstruct them, & 2) the text explaining said processes is scattered all over with no apparent rhyme or reason.

2) Unlike DD's life reconstructions, DI's are mostly not-so-good. Those by Carr are as good as it gets in DI, while those by Pixel-shack are as bad as it gets: In reference to Carr, that's not saying much; Some of her life reconstructions are OK (E.g. See the small T.rex on the front cover), while others are just plain outdated/abominable (E.g. See the feathered dinos on the back cover; Some have pronated hands or splayed legs; Others look like demented muppets or feathered lizards); In reference to Pixel-shack, I've already said everything I have to say about them in my Dinosaurs review (See reason #4: ); In DI, the ankylosaurs are depicted as being piles of poop, while the tyrannosaurs are shameless rip-offs of the "Jurassic Park" T.rex. Those by the other illustrators fall somewhere in between, but more towards Pixel-shack (E.g. See Eriksson's large T.rex on the front cover, which is a poorly-photoshopped lace monitor). McKinnon's paleoart may be the 2nd worst in DI (E.g. Not only is the Struthiomimus un-feathered with pronated hands, but also duck-billed with cheeks).

*I'm specifically referring to DD's life reconstructions, some of which are not-so-good (E.g. Those by various illustrators & Pixel-shack in the older & newer editions, respectively).

**On average, there's 2 or 3 factual errors per page in DI, a 64 page book.
Quoting Ben (Google "Framing Fossil Exhibits: Phylogeny"): "Within the actual fossil halls, interpretation remains stubbornly unapproachable. For example, the sign introducing proboscidians tells visitors that this group is defined primarily by eye sockets located near the snout. An observant visitor might wonder why scientists rely on such an obscure detail, as opposed to the obvious trunks and tusks. There’s a good teaching moment there concerning why some characteristics might face more selection pressure (and thus change more radically) than others, but instead visitors are only offered esoteric statements. Relatedly, the exhibit does little to prioritize information. Most label text is quite small, and there’s a lot of it. Compare this to Evolving Planet at the Field Museum, where there is a clear hierarchy of headings and sub-headings. Visitors can read the main point of a display without even stopping, and parents can quickly find relevant information to answer their charges’ questions (rather than making something up).
Evolving Planet also compares favorably to the AMNH fossil halls in its informative aesthetics and spatial logic. At FMNH, walls and signs in each section are distinctly color-coded, making transitions obvious and intuitive. Likewise, consistent iconography...such as the mass extinction zones...helps visitors match recurring themes and topics throughout the exhibit. AMNH, in contrast, has a uniform glass and white-walled Apple Store aesthetic. It’s visually appealing, but doesn’t do much to help visitors navigate the space in a meaningful way."