Tales of the Prehistoric World

Kallie Moore has achieved a reasonable level of fame for a paleontologist, as both one the hosts of PBS Eons, and amassing a significant following in the “Paleosphere” in her own right. As an accomplished science communicator, it’s only fitting that she should get into the world of publishing as well. Her first book for kids, Tales of the Prehistoric World, introduces readers to various creatures from the past, and tells how we came to know of them.

Very near the beginning, we get this interesting story about how numerous amateur explorers had discovered the first known Ediacaran organisms before they became widely recognized.

Moore highlights her subjects in roughly geochronological order, sometimes looking at a particular species, sometimes a broader paleoenvironment, and sometimes even individual fossil specimens. Readers can expect an engaging description of the relevant creatures, and usually the history of its discovery and study as well. Occasionally the history even takes the spotlight over the fossils themselves, as when Moore discusses Mary Anning, or the history of Spinosaurus reconstructions.

An illustration of this “megaraft” of crinoids also appears in When Fish Got Feet, Bugs Were Big, and Dinos Dawned (originally When Dinos Dawned, Mammals Got Munched, and Pterosaurs Took Flight), though it is described in far more detail here!

Very much in keeping with her history as a PBS Eons host, Moore has a keen sense for fascinating subjects, and less appreciated aspects of more famous ones. I love what she has included here, with the historical perspective in particular being very much up my alley.

Here’s a nice supplement to Boy, Were We Wrong About Dinosaurs!, showing the changing views scientists have had of dinosaurs as better information becomes available.

While I have high praise for Kallie’s writing, the illustrations unfortunately leave me somewhat less that impressed. While both brightly colored and easy on the eyes, there’s a certain looseness to them I didn’t quite care for. I have no prejudice against stylized illustrations, and have praised some books like Mammoth is Mopey or Kaleidoscope of Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Life for their highly stylized designs that still manage to convey a consistent essence of their subjects. The illustrations here don’t consistently hit that sweet spot for me, however. As is often the case, the feathered dinosaurs are one of the easier subjects to call out for a specific misstep, as a good portion of them have the whole “feather sleeves” thing going on. Many other illustrations have similar small issues that add up to a generally less polished feeling, though not in an intentional, stylistic way, if you get my meaning.

It’s cool seeing the history of Spinosaurus depictions so thoroughly described here! It actually consists of 4 pages in total.

I don’t want to rag on the art too much, as some of the illustrations do work well, though I will admit that the apparently lackadaisical approach to the creatures forms lowered this book’s priority in my mind upon its initial release, which caused me to miss out on the excellent writing until now.

A volcanic ash bed which preserves an array of prehistoric mammals, including the rhino Teleoceras, which also happened to be preserved at another volcanic site that was memorialized in the Ray Troll song “Blue Lake Rhino”.

I would definitely recommend picking up a copy of Tales of the Prehistoric World. While I’m disappointed I couldn’t be more enthusiastic about the art, Kallie Moore’s highly informative yet accessible writing essentially makes up for it. I applaud her choice in subjects, which brings that eclectically informative Eons vibe and organizes it into an easily referenced and easily digestible volume. I’m glad I gave this one a chance, and I look forward to more from Moore in the future!


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