Planet Dinosaur – Book Review

The new dinosaur discoveries, the huge, the tiny, the weird and the wonderful are revealed in remarkable detail in this book “Planet Dinosaur – The Next Generation of Giant Killers” that has been produced to accompany the BBC television series.  Team members at Everything Dinosaur, were asked to write a review and true to our word here it is.

It is more than ten years since the ground-breaking BBC television series “Walking with Dinosaurs” was first broadcast on BBC1.  Now, 2011 brings the much anticipated “Planet Dinosaur” to our screens, an opportunity to highlight some of the amazing dinosaur discoveries that have been made over the last decade or so.  Accompanying the 1999 television series a book entitled “Walking with Dinosaurs – A Natural History” was published, in a continuation of this trend, BBC Books have produced a companion to “Planet Dinosaur” and what a visual feast it proves to be.

It may be just a blink in geological time since 1999, but this new publication is strikingly different from its predecessor.  For example, “Walking with Dinosaurs – A Natural History” followed the format of the television programmes very closely.  Each of the six chapters was dedicated to telling the story and introducing the prehistoric animals and the science behind them from a particular episode of the TV series.  “Planet Dinosaur – The Next Generation of Giant Killers”; in contrast, focuses on the prehistoric animals and the palaeontology, with the use of a graphic novel style layout to highlight elements taken from individual television programmes.

Each of the main protagonists from the television series is given its own double page fact file – a vast array of amazing prehistoric creatures many of whom have been discovered since 1999.  A highly detailed CGI image is surrounded by notes providing information about long extinct animals as diverse as Microraptor – a dinosaur that could glide and predator X a huge, marine reptile so new to science that it has yet to be formally named and described.

In contrast to the “Walking with Dinosaurs” publication,  the majority of the animals featured are described using their binomial scientific name, that is, the genus and species name as if to reaffirm the publisher’s desire to provide a strong scientific undercurrent to the narrative.

The Front Cover of “Planet Dinosaur”

Picture Credit: Ebury Publishing

A handy pronunciation guide is provided, a boon to parents and grand-parents who will no doubt be persuaded to read alongside their dinosaur obsessed younger family members.

One slight criticism we proffer in what is generally an excellent book, towards the end of the 238 pages there is a small section that attempts to place the prehistoric animals featured in the television series into context with geological time.  We could take issue with the dates given for some of the geological periods, indeed there seems to be some discrepancies over the dates given in this section with those stated in the introduction, but our main gripe is that the Triassic has been omitted from the time-line altogether.  This may be expediency on behalf of the publishers, as the television series focuses almost exclusively on the work of palaeontologists studying creatures that lived during the later part of the Mesozoic Era – the Jurassic and the Cretaceous.

Just as certain as planet Earth having been subjected to extraterrestrial impacts, this beautifully illustrated book will prove to be very popular amongst avid dinosaur fans.  Its clever combination of stunning images and scientific detail  will also intrigue and inform the casual reader, keen to see how the science of palaeontology and our understanding of the prehistoric world has moved on. Highly recommended.

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