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Grade 5 Up-Many books on dinosaurs get caught up in cataloging the creatures and their features and forget to fit them into an ecological niche. Lessem's endeavor is brilliant because it describes dinosaurs by integrating them into their environment, which includes climate, geology, fauna and flora, and the continent on which they lived, thus connecting the animal to its time and place. Few other books on the topic fill in the full picture so well. Lessem even includes a "Then" and "Now" feature to show readers that the deserts and cliffs where dinosaur bones are found today were often jungles and oceans in prehistoric times. The book is organized into large chapters that investigate dinosaur finds on all continents. Readers are treated with vivid portraits of how raptors hunted 125 million years ago in what is now Utah, and how in the skies 200 million years ago, pterosaurs cruised over an Antarctica with a climate more like the American Northwest. The book is packed with good information for reports, and includes an excellent list for further reading. But it's also great for browsing. This is in part due to its large size, which accommodates excellent full-color artwork that truly captures the towering necks of sauropods or the action-packed drama of a carnivore tracking down a meal. This portrait of the Earth's past life is a masterpiece.
Cathryn A. Camper, Minneapolis Public Library
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Gr. 5^-8. The format is busy, and the organization appears complicated at first, but this is a book that report writers and dinophiles won't want to miss. Lessem takes a fresh approach to the subject, introducing not only facts about a wide variety of dinosaurs but also information about the environments in which they existed. To capture a sense of dinosaur history, he takes readers on a sort of Cook's tour of important dinosaur digs--from Europe to Africa to the U.S.--referring to fossil evidence as he discusses how and where the fascinating beasts lived, from their dawning to their disappearance. Careful comparisons with places and animals known today help link the past to the present, and full-color artists' renderings, maps, and photos, all nicely captioned, jam the pages. Numerous sidebars provide additional information; further readings and an extensive glossary are appended. Stephanie Zvirin
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