Saturday, January 16, 2010

Both Sides Now: Inside-Outside Dinosaurs by Roxie Munro

When dino-mania strikes a young reader, Roxie Munro's eye-popping new large-format picture book, Inside-Outside Dinosaurs, (Marshal Cavendish, 2009) has what it takes to satisfy that curiosity about these fascinating beasts.

To this task Munro brings a powerful palette. Her cover glows with cherry red and bright green accents, and her endpapers reverse the pattern, with green set off by just a touch of bright color.

Inside her format follows the design suggested by her title: the first double-page spread on each featured dinosaur shows a careful profile of the animal's skeleton, with the scientific name in cherry red block capitals at the upper left, and the meaning of the name in large black lower case letters in the opposite corner. The following full-color double-page spread shows the living animal, in the foreground, in its place in its environment, with landscape and other dinos of the same period in the background. For example, the ever-popular TRICEROTOPS is shown daintily nibbling on fern-like plants, while in the scene behind it a carnivorous Gorgosaurus chases a flock of Struthionmimuses and a flying Quetzalcoathus soars above the proto-palm trees dotted about the Cretacean landscape.

Many of the usual suspects of dinosaur books are here: Brachiosaurus, T. Rex, and Stegosaurus, for example, get the full treatment; but there are lesser-known examples as well: Parasaurolophus and Spinosaurus also have their moments in the sun. These feature pages have no further text, but Munro appends an especially useful section at the end which provides line drawings of each landscaped page, with the dinosaurs color-coded with their scientific names below, while the featured beast gets a detailed description of his habits, behavior, physiology, and geological period. The final section, "Find Out More About Dinosaurs," provides a short but fine selection of books for further reading and a list of six "Online Sources" which include the sites of the American Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History collections, as well as such interactive web sites as Zoom Dinosaurs and Dinosaur Dig.

Munro's Inside-Outside Dinosaurs is a knock-out of a book, one which will draw young dinophiles like a magnet and provide just the right amount of mind-expanding information for the youngest paleontology fan out there. This book should be the first stop before an actual trip to the natural history museum.

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