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Fleen Book Corner: Mammal Takeover!

What can you say at this point about an Abby Howard book on extinct critters, evolution, ecological niches, and Science Magic? Much like the earlier entries in the Earth Before Us series, Dinosaur Empire! and Ocean Renegades!, Mammal Takeover! dives into an era of geological history, looks at what the world was like and what animals filled which roles, courtesy of Ronnie and Ms Lernin.

It’s basically a 120 page expansion of the ten pages that Larry Gonick devoted to the Age of Mammals in his classic Cartoon History Of The Universe, vol 1 (starting at the Big Bang, ending with the emergence of humans), only with the benefit of 40 more years of accumulated knowledge. Gonick didn’t know we were in the Sixth Great Extinction, or the threats of anthropogenic climate change; Howard has the responsibility to confront those issues and make them compelling (but not terrifying) for her audience of 5th +/- 2 graders, which she manages with aplomb.

Plus, folks that know more about extinct critters and how to artistically convey them¹ think she’s doing a good job, so who am I to contradict them? My only complaint is that we didn’t see all of the truly bizarre creatures during the so-called Age Of Horns (horned mice! horned jackrabbits! deer with weird-ass horns sprouting vertically from their snouts!), and aquatic mammals got a brief presentation (there’s a bit on where whales and other cetaceans came from, but nothing on the pinnipeds (I am all about the sea lions).

So that’s pretty much it for the Earth Before Us series — one book on the timeframe of dinosaurs, one on multicellular life before dinosaurs, and one on everything since the K-T extinction event. Whatever she works on next will be excellent, but for now, get the set of three EBU books for the dino-loving kids (of whatever age) in your life. The ones that don’t now about pre-dino life or post-dino life will probably end up with a obsession. Here’s hoping that Ronnie and Ms Lernin can find other topics to explore, but we’ll also have these trash receptacle-centered Science Magic journeys to enjoy time and again.

[Editor’s note: Thank you.]

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¹ Dr Mark Witton is not only an expert the large pterosaurs known as azhdarchids, he is also one of the world’s premiere paleoartists. He is why we think of large pterosaurs as flying giraffes that could spear you with their beaks. I love his work.

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