Recently discovered hints that most dinosaurs may have been feathered cap a gallery of prehistoric predecessors to today’s birds.
The presentation has more of a cobbled-together feel than Guiberson’s previous look at the deep past, The Greatest Dinosaur Ever (illustrated by Gennady Spirin, 2013). Despite the title, the book goes beyond feathers. Guiberson discusses how the colors of fossilized feathers can be deduced from the shapes of their microscopic melanosomes, but she also describes early appearances of other avian features such as wishbones and a two-legged stance. But that anatomical focus doesn’t extend to the illustrations, as in the dimly lit paintings, dinosaurs loom indistinctly, their colors muted and limbs tightly folded or otherwise angled so that structural details are hard to make out. Eoalulavis appears only as a few tiny figures winging past a pair of immense sauropods, and the towering ornithischian confronting a modern ostrich on the final spread isn’t identified at all. The portraits are arranged in rough chronological order, but there are no clues in text or pictures to the dinosaurs’ specific eras. Despite a reference to the “teeny wings” of Hesperornis and a few other breaks in tone, the author’s commentary is otherwise solid…until its grand but insupportable closing claim that birds now inhabit “every environment on Earth.”
Fine viewing, but more of an art exhibit than a systematic family history. (bibliography) (Informational picture book. 8-10)