Navigators – Dinosaurs – Book Review

*Originally written in 2011 based on a free copy provided by Amazon

It’s been a while since I’ve looked at a book like this. My childhood was filled with books on animals, the more ferocious the better and preferably with a few gory pictures thrown in. My favourite topic, as seems to be the case for the majority of kids, was dinosaurs – I collected the magazines hoping to build my own T-Rex, I watched the Ray Harryhausen and Doug McClure movies, and I read as many books as possible on the subject getting lost in the pictures and the world presented within. Now that I have children of my own on the way I think that I may get lost once more.

Since my childhood we have had 3 Jurassic Park movies, various high-tech dinosaur tv shows, and a host of books with more detailed artwork and analysis. As I said it’s been a while since I’ve looked at anything like this so all I can judge it against is my own memories. The first thing to notice is the size of the book – it has A4 style pages and is almost presented like an annual. The hardcover coupled with the quality of the paper should mean many years of under the cover reading will not harm it. The front cover depicts, simply, the word ‘Dinosaurs’ in all it’s inviting glory with a sampling of the beasts in the surrounding spaces. The rear cover’s selling points are that they present all the facts that the kids want to know as well as stunning 3D artwork to bring the animals to life-like never before. Forgive my stupidity for thinking the images were actually 3D and could be enhanced with specs. Looking inside comes the first disappointment then when the 3D is actually just ‘zoomed in close-ups of various parts of the dino’s body. The second disappointment comes soon after when you realise the book is quite small – only 48 pages. For 10 pounds and for the exterior size I would have expected more.

Luckily though, those are my major qualms, and while the rather boring, school like text and information, and the lack of some of my personal favourite dinosaurs are notable annoyances, I can’t really mark down the book for such things. Each page is generously spaced, with handy foot and side notes (with interesting weblinks) and floating info capsules as well as the main text, mostly watercoloured over the artwork so as not to spoil the picture. The text is informative, list names of animals, parts, places, and covering all the important areas from feeding to the time periods. Rather than being an A-Z of the creatures though, or being split into sections covering say air, land, and sea, or herbivores and carnivores, each double page focuses on one area which one (sometimes two) dinosaurs used as an example of said area. So we get a two page spread called Egg Mountain which focuses on the laying of eggs and the protection of young, using Maisauras as an example, followed by a section called Pack Attack in which a pack of Deinonychus attacks a Tenontosaurus in bloody glory.
While reading about the creatures is one thing, seeing them is another and thankfully the artwork here is stunning. The creatures are beautifully rendered in high detail and set against (something which is usually ignored) a dedicated, realistic backing landscape. The double paging works wonders, leaving plenty of room for action shots and giving an impression of their size and terrible beauty. These should be more than enough to spark any child’s imagination. Land, sea, and air are covered and parents shouldn’t be concerned at the gore content- there are only a few shots of eating and killing and they are not gratuitous.

This book gives a strong overall history of the dinosaurs, starting with their discovery and working chronologically through their existence until the final section which tries to explain the reasons for their extinction. We get an index, glossary, and ‘find out more’ section at the end. This may be either a useful introduction to the animals for your children, or as another collection of pictures for hardened fans to salivate over. I would have prefered more information on individual types, and the information given isn’t too complex, but that’s just me. I’m not sure if it is worth the full price when there are other similar offerings on the market, but if you can get it cheaper you will have a happy kid.

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