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April 25, 1993|CHARLES SOLOMON

FAMILIAR CACTI: North America by Kenneth Heil; FAMILIAR DINOSAURS by Joseph Wallace (Knopf: $8 each; 191 pp., illustrated, paperback original). "Cacti" and "Dinosaurs" are the first two installments in a handsomely illustrated line of postcard-sized nature guides from the Audubon Society. In his introduction, Kenneth Heil observes that the remarkably diverse cacti "have adapted to survive under conditions that would destroy most other plants and even most animals, within a matter of hours." (Unfortunately, even these hardy plants can't survive the destruction of their habitats and the depredations of human collectors.) The concise descriptions and brightly colored photographs are designed to help amateur naturalists identify the plants they observe on hikes. The paired illustrations and capsule descriptions in "Dinosaurs" focus on some of the many new species discovered in recent years. Wallace's informative but not overly technical book could keep an elementary school paleontologist quiet during a long car trip.

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