Mammals! Explorer

While rereading my review of Bugs! Explorer to compare it to Mammals! Explorer for the sake of today’s review, I was amused to see that my first line expressed embarrassment at how long I had kept it from the library, since that ended up happening again with this one. While it mostly reflects how long it took to get around to reviewing them, we did still get a lot a good use out of both books during that time, so I suppose that speaks well of the pair right off the bat!

Another book in the “What on Earth” series authored by Nick Forshaw and illustrated by William Exley, Mammals! Explorer follows the example of Bugs! Explorer, giving a broad overview of mammals as a group, covering such topics as identifying features, evolutionary history, and modern ecology. It also features a fold-out timeline in the back, starting with the synapsid precursors to mammals in the Permian, and continuing through to the present day. This makes a for a good, more focused counterpart to The Nature Timeline Wallbook, which is part of the same brand though not technically part of the Explorer series (the Wallbook also has a text based portion, though its information is presented as a faux newspaper, rather than in a strictly descriptive format).

The timeline at its full extent.

As mentioned before, the book gives a good introduction to all the basics of mammalian biology and history. Pitched at a grade school audience, it remains educational without feeling dry or boring. Each topic feels very sensibly organized, which makes the whole book very easy to follow, and leaves readers feeling much more informed by the end.

A selection of Mesozoic mammals, including the beaver & flying squirrel mimcs, Castorocauda and Volaticotherium, and the dino-munching Repenomamus.

Mammals in general seem much harder to screw up in illustration than any other prehistoric creature, likely due to our intimate familiarity with modern members of the group. Everything looks pretty accurate within the confines of Exley’s style. The hominins in Mammals! Explorer improve upon the ones featured in The Nature Timeline Wallbook, which in general looked too far too shaggy haired in the latter (practically like Sasquatches, in fact).

Mammalian megafauna… and Thylacosmilus. I’m not sure what the theme is on this page here.

I highly recommend Mammals! Explorer. The illustrations are good, and the timeline makes for a dynamic and engrossing inclusion. After Abby Howard’s Mammal Takeover!, it’s probably the most informative book on prehistoric mammals (and modern mammals as well!) that I’ve yet featured on this blog. As it aims for an older audience though, I would recommend the Cat in the Hat book Once Upon A Mastodon for younger readers, which I found myself unexpectedly impressed with, especially considering the poor quality of its dinosaur counterpart. My young boys do still enjoy running their toy magnifying glasses back and forth along the timeline of Mammals! Explorer, though, so it certainly won’t go to waste if you purchase this one for younger kids as well! All things considered, it earns my Dino Dad Stomp of Approval.

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