I’ve got dinosaurs on my mind lately—not only because of the books I’m about to share in today’s column, but also because I recently got Duelosaur Island, a two-player spin-off board game of Dinosaur Island, and I’m eager to play that some more. Today’s books are mostly picture books, along with one longer book that’s sort of a graphic novel and sort of a picture book. Let’s dig in!
Kimmy loves fossils and dinosaurs, so she’s really excited to visit the natural history museum with her class. But Jake keeps telling her that girls can’t be scientists, which discourages her. (Grrrr, Jake!) Fortunately, her teacher Mr. Tiffin recognizes both her expertise and her uncomfortable silence, and introduces her to Gasparinisaura Cincosaltensis: a dinosaur discovered by Zulma Brandoni de Gasparini, a Latina woman. Kimmy finds her groove again, and adds Dr. Brandoni de Gasparini to her list of heroes. The back of the book includes a section of Kimmy’s favorite paleontologists, women who are all (except one) still alive and working now. I liked this book not only because it does teach some actual dinosaur facts, but also because of the way that it promotes the idea that girls can be scientists (and that boys—including Jake—can learn to accept that, too).
Sal is a little girl, but what she really wants to be is a T. Rex. After all, it’s so much cooler when you can roar, ignore all the rules, and eat everything. Of course, as she discovers, sometimes when you ignore all the rules, you still get sent to your room, even if you are a dinosaur. So she works on some compromises, calling upon her inner dinosaur when the time is right, but also being able to wear her snazzy sneakers. Okay, so this one isn’t really a non-fiction book like many of the others in the list, but it’s cute and amusing, and does include some valuable life lessons (even if it doesn’t teach you literally how to be an actual T. Rex).
Titanosaur: Discovering the World’s Largest Dinosaur written by Dr. José Luis Carballido & Dr. Diego Pol, illustrated by Florencia Gigena
(Note that Titanosaur won’t be released until February 2019, but it is available for pre-order now.)
The titanosaur shows up briefly in The Dinosaur Expert (above), but gets to take center stage in this picture book, which is a non-fictional account of the discovery of Patagotitan mayorum, written by the two paleontologists who led the dig. It’s told in simple language that kids can understand, with some sidebars that explain specific terms or show photographs of the process, and it’s an exciting story: a gaucho and his dog stumbled upon a bone, which eventually led to the excavation of several titanosaur skeletons.
One thing the book doesn’t really get into is that the titanosaur is a group of dinosaurs, not one specific one, and (as far as I can tell) the Patagotitan isn’t actually the largest of the bunch—so it’s not entirely clear to me what the “world’s largest dinosaur” claim is based on. Either way, it’s a massive dinosaur, with a femur longer than the paleontologists who dug it up, and the book is a great way to learn more about it.
Photicular books are like an analog version of animated GIFs: as you open and close the book, the image (seen through a lenticular display) is animated in a short loop. This one features eight scenes (including the T. Rex on the cover), each accompanied by one-page introduction and some quick facts like size, diet, and threats. At the beginning of the book is a longer introduction by Wollard about dinosaurs, extinction events, and paleontology.
Dinosaur science is always evolving: we thought dinosaurs were cold-blooded, scaly reptiles, but it turns out they may have been mesothermic and feathered. After a brief (but more densely worded) introduction to dinosaurs (as well as pterosaurs and icthyosaurs, which aren’t technically dinosaurs but are also included here), Sewell fills nearly 100 pages with colorful watercolor illustrations of dinosaurs, accompanied by short descriptions that often include a bit of humor. These illustrations aren’t meant to be photorealistic and are a bit cartoony, but they play with the idea that dinosaurs may have been more brightly colored than we’ve thought in the past.
Bolivar is a dinosaur who lives in New York City, but nobody notices him because everybody’s too busy with their own things. That works for Bolivar, who just wants to live quietly in his apartment and stay out of trouble. But Sybil, the little girl who lives next door, notices him, and is on a mission to get photographic proof (because her mother, as with all the other people in the book, just thinks Sybil is being silly).
This book is a hybrid between a graphic novel and a picture book: there are speech bubbles and panels on some pages, but a lot of the pages are also full-page illustrations accompanied by some narrated text. It’s also much longer than your average picture book, at over 200 pages, and it’s gorgeous. Although the people (and Bolivar himself) are somewhat cartoony, their surroundings are incredibly detailed, from the mosaic mural in the subway station to the various exhibits in the natural history museum.
The story is very funny, and progresses from the predictable—Sybil’s mom manages to interrupt every time she’s about to snap a photo—to a zany, madcap adventure involving the mayor and a case of mistaken identity. It’s kid-friendly, but also may serve as a helpful reminder to adults to pay a little more attention to the world around them.
My Current Stack
This week I plowed through The Burning World by Isaac Marion. It’s the third book in his Warm Bodies series, which puts a new spin on the zombie genre. (I interviewed Marion back in 2011 after reading the first book.) I’d read the second book, The New Hunger, a while back, but just hadn’t gotten to The Burning World yet. Well, the conclusion to the series, The Living, is now available as an ebook (or preorder the hardcover), and I found myself back in the world of these no-longer-Dead zombies and the curious in-between state they’ve found themselves in. It digs into R’s past as his memories start to return, and also brings in a new threat: the Axiom Group, a militarized corporation that seems to be spreading its influence over the devastated United States. I’ve just started The Living this weekend and am looking forward to seeing how the story turns out.
Disclosure: I received review copies or advance reader copies of the books in this column.