In the package I received containing When Dinosaurs Conquered the Skies, Quarto Publishing was kind enough to include an additional book along with it, titled Dinosaur Atlas. No, not the Anne Rooney (which I recommend), but another book by the same name. This one happens to be part of a series of atlases that includes a Space Atlas, Ocean Atlas, & Soccer Atlas. While each of these are mentioned on the back cover of the book, similar to the other series from Quarto I’ve reviewed (Amazing Evolution), no mention is made of any collective name from this group of books, which potentially makes it less likely that consumers will discover all of them, although Amazon calls this one the “Amazing Adventures” series.
Dinosaur Atlas is fairly typical for one of these prehistoric atlas/encyclopedia type books. After some basic introductory pages, the bulk of the book consists of species profiles generally organized around a single species. Basic stats, including a silhouetted scale bar, are included on the left hand side of each double page spread, with the rest of the page consisting of an illustration of the species in question surrounded by additional descriptive paragraphs. Various historical paleontologists are also mentioned throughout the book, which I as a history nerd appreciated.
Each illustration generally depicts the animal in question in a vague suggestion of its environment, often with other species it shared the region with. When other species are depicted they will generally get at least one of the paragraphs dedicated to them as well, occasionally describing their ecological relationship to the main species.
An interesting exception is the page ostensibly dedicated to Sinornithosaurus, which, while given the starring role in the stats column, is not the most prominent part of the rest of the page. Microraptor dominates the illustration, but overall this page seems to be more of a generalized “feathered dinosaur” page. I rather like the Microraptor here, even if it is colored brown rather than black. (Perhaps the illustrator should have read Kaleidoscope of Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Life?) Even with the inaccurate colors, this and the Archaeopteryx on the previous page are perhaps the best looking illustrations in the entire book.
As for the rest of the illustrations, unfortunately, I can’t say I’m a huge fan. The designs generally feel a bit misshapen and lazy, often seemingly relying on more cartoonish pop culture designs that the original creatures. For example, when we get away from the “dedicated” feathered dinosaur page, accuracy on this front take a sudden nose-dive, with the “classic” dromaeosaur species all sporting the dreaded “feather sleeves”, and an Oviraptor appearing completely naked and scaly. In fact, the reason for this Oviraptor’s appearance takes us to perhaps my greatest criticism of the illustrations overall…
I noted numerous illustrations that immediately jumped out at me as having been traced from stock photos of various dinosaur toys. I actually noticed the Safari Ltd. inspired Postosuchus first, but then of course the ubiquitous Papo models began to rear their heads. As previously hinted, I noticed their Oviraptor, along with the Allosaurus and Brachiosaurus. Surprisingly, the inescapable Papo T. rex was relegated to the scale bar, though the main illustration of old Rexy seems to rely heavily on a specific Jurassic Park promo image I’ve seen.
Dinosaur Atlas: A Journey Through Time to the Prehistoric World is decently written, and won’t generally steer kids wrong as far as the writing goes, but I unfortunately can’t recommend it. I can appreciate that the illustrator may have been under a time crunch, so I don’t know that I necessarily blame them specifically. It would have been nice if the publisher had done their due diligence, however, and ensured that their illustrator was one with an actual background in paleoart, and had the time to give their subjects the attention they deserved. As I’ve mentioned before, I love stylized paleoart when it’s done well. Just see my rave review for Mammoth is Mopey, or heck, the OTHER Dinosaur Atlas by Anne Rooney! But if the book’s creators can’t give their subjects the attention they deserve, then I don’t think the book itself deserves our attention either.
I’ve always noticed that illustrations in these dinosaur books often twnd to be copied from the first results on Google Image Search in some way, either in pose, colors, and/or speculative features, so obscure dinosaurs tend to be more accurate than well-known ones. For example, the Austroraptor and Dromaeosaurus in “When Dinosaurs conquered the skies” is borederline plaigiarized from Fred Wierum’s art on Wikipedia (with way too similar poses) and the Utahraptor is almost identical to that of prominent Deviantart paleontologist “cisiopurple”.