How It Works is a popular magazine series which publishes articles on a vast wealth of subjects related to science and technology with a view to leave the reader well-informed on the topic at hand. In addition to their regular monthly magazine, they also publish special once off issues which focus on a very specific remit. One of the latest of these is their ‘book’ (it’s really more of a large magazine) of dinosaurs.
The first thing that even a casual dinosaur fan will notice about the How It Works Book of Dinosaurs is that it is a veritable who’s who of stock dinosaur images, with, as best as I can tell, no newly commissioned artwork on display. This will disappoint many paleo-enthusiasts as dinosaur fans tend to be every bit as much in to checking out new artwork as they are reading about their favourite ‘terrible lizards’.
The over-reliance of stock images works much to the How It Works Book of Dinosaurs’ detriment. As is often the case when you opt for cheap pictures from stock, you get what you pay for. As such, the standard of artwork on display within the volume ranges from fairly good to truly awful. It would seem that many of the images we see in the finished publication were thrown in hastily without checking that they were indeed suitable for their purpose. One glaring example is in a section dedicated to Tyrannosaurus rex which has an accompanying photograph of a dinosaur skeleton, complete with labels identifying various body parts and what they were for; the skeleton in the picture is from the wrong dinosaur; a carcharodontosaurid. While at a superficial glance, the two creatures look somewhat similar, anyone who knows more than a modicum about meat eating dinosaur anatomy can tell them apart without having to look very closely.
Despite the fact that How It Works boast about how their writers are “highly intelligent and talented experts” on the subscriptions page, it is quite obvious that no genuine palaeontologists had any significant role to play in the editorial process as the book is absolutely riddled with rookie mistakes. The magazine often talks about the same topic multiple time, sometimes contradicting what it said earlier. Then there are factual errors that can only be attributed to poor sub-editing. Case in point, on one of the main pages about Velociraptor it shows a picture of a completely featherless ‘raptor accompanied by an arrow pointing to it which stated it had feathers. It wouldn’t have been hard to source an image of a feathered raptor, so this feels unforgivably lazy. In another example, an abelisaurid is labelled as a ‘T-rex’. This is wholly unacceptable as the two animals don’t even look particular similar.
There are plenty of other doozies in the How It Works Book of Dinosaurs, far too many to list off here. The magazine infers at different points that pterosaurs and pliosaurs are dinosaurs (they are not) and the majority of the dinosaur depictions are quite outdated – if bunny-wristed theropods and noodle-necked sauropods are your thing, then you may get a kick out of this ‘book’, but anyone who wants to learn actual information about dinosaurs should avoid the How It Works Book of Dinosaurs like the plague – at a RRP of £9.99 (I’ve seen it selling as high as €16.30 in some places) one can find much better books about dinosaurs for the same price.
If the How It Works Book of Dinosaurs is anything to go by, God help the misinformed masses that get their information from the ongoing magazine on a monthly basis, not to mention pay good money for the privilege!
[Images: Imagine Publishing]