I don't want to understate my enthusiasm for this book -- but buy it. It's cheap and extraordinarily valuable. I use this book in combination with my Mandarin II class, Pimsleur Mandarin, and other dictionaries (especially the Harbaugh one -- different and complementary). So WHY is this so great? Learning characters, for me, is not easy (I know about 300-400 at this point). What appears to be complex combinations of strokes are actually combinations of simpler structures. This book organizes the pieces of characters (in big, readable type) and their related parts and actually makes them easier to learn. Most dictionaries just give the meaning, this gives origins and commonalities. The citations refer to pictogram origins, sound loans, and radical inclusion (the basic 1000 are given stroke by stroke for the most part). Some characters (even traditional) have different forms (little stroke variations) and McNaughton explains that in part. Each character is given with a selection of related combinations derived from the main character. Both traditional and simplified characters are included in each citation.
The book is inexpensive and helps me. The Harbaugh book is incredibly more thorough, relates characters to others, but doesn't explain the relationships within characters. I have both, and as a first year student, the McNaughton book is more helpful in learning characters and their relationships. As I get more advanced, Harbaugh's book is becoming more valuable. But McNaughton's book is pure fun.
On the down side, I wish there were an English index. There are stroke-count, character, and Pinyin indices.
Take a look at this historically valuable handbook, and see if you don't agree.