If you have ever wished you could have a retired paleontologist come to your classroom or home and give your kids hands-on science lessons, then Dinosaur Discovery: Everything You Need to Be a Paleontologist by Chris McGowan and illustrated by Erica Lyn Schmidt is the book for you.
Interspersed with two-page spreads of amazing watercolor illustrations of dinosaurs by Erica Lyn Schmidt (see her website for numerous examples) and detailed information about specific dinosaurs, are instructions for hands-on activities with bright full-color photographs. It really gives a feel of going back in time and then coming to the present to learn more. (Although it would have been nice to include photographs of a girl performing the experiments as well as a boy).
Chris McGowan’s hands-on activities pack a powerful science punch. He incorporates numerous science principals into experiments and demonstrations that are deceptively simple and involve materials you can find around the house. These are real concepts that a paleontologist would need to comprehend and shows how well-rounded they must be, understanding not only dinosaurs but also such diverse fields as physics, anatomy and geology.
Pinning down an age range for this book is difficult. Most likely it targets middle grade, but many children get intensely interested in dinosaurs at an earlier age. I would say younger children would eat this up with quite a bit of help from an adult. It would also tie in wonderfully with a trip to a natural history museum that features dinosaur exhibits.
Teachers, homeschoolers and librarians will definitely find Dinosaur Discovery: Everything You Need to Be a Paleontologist a useful resource for experiments to supplement a variety of science lessons, such as earth science or anatomy lessons. Be sure to pick up this book and invite a paleontologist over soon.
Seabird in the Forest: Mystery of the Marbled Murrelet written and illustrated by Joan Dunning caught my eye because my family and I had become enamored with similar birds, the ancient murrelets, when we watched The Life of Birds with David Attenborough. It turns out the story of the marbled murrelets is even more amazing. Dunning reveals that it was only recently discovered these little sea birds fly long distances, sometimes more than 50 miles, to nest in old growth forests.
The main story follows two parent murrelets raising a chick. Many of the pages include sidebars within the illustrations with many more fascinating details about the birds and their habitat. Even the endpapers (front and back are different) are filled with intriguing facts and more information about the trees the birds nest in. For budding scientists, the author has included snippets of information about how biologists study these elusive creatures.
Joan Dunning illustrated the book with oils, as she says in her website, to capture the darker, heavier feel of the forests. She says she got the idea for the book when she saw the parent murrelets bringing food to their chick while she was working on Secrets of the Nest a decade ago. We are glad she did!
It is always fun to reinforce learning with some hands-on activities:
Celebrate Joan Dunning’s illustrations by drawing or painting pictures of marbled murrelets
If you are interested in helping with conservation, the National Park Service has a page with ideas and posters for children to color. The main thrust is to help keep predators of murrelets from becoming too much of a problem.
Intrigued? Check out this video from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for more information about the incredible marbled murrelets.