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The Best Book of Dinosaurs: It's Not Just Another Dinosaur Book


Share Terrible lizards, giant footprints, rumbling earth... Is this Godzilla? No, it's The Best Book of Dinosaurs -- and it deserves a place on your classroom bookshelf.

Best Book of Dinosaurs Book Cover Terrible lizards, giant footprints, rumbling earth. Is this Godzilla? No, it's The Best Book of Dinosaurs, by Chris Maynard (Kingfisher, 1998). This book has the answers to many of the dinosaur questions your students ask. Thirty-two pages are chock full of information about the animals of long ago. A glossary at the end of the book helps students (and teachers!) keep from confusing Cretaceous with Jurassic or Triassic. The index even includes phonetic spellings of the dinosaurs' names!


While this is a picture book, the content is detailed enough to give all amateur dinosaur dreamers some new information. Illustrations vary between large, vibrant scenes and smaller spots that illustrate sequences and dinosaur comparisons. Several illustrations are labeled to identify specific parts of certain animals.

A look at the Contents page gives readers of The Best Book of Dinosaurs a good idea of what they can expect. Chapter heads include

  • Bringing up baby
  • Living in herds
  • Going hunting
  • Pack attack!
  • Then they were gone
  • Big buried bones
and
  • Bone puzzle

PLANT EATERS

The life cycle of a Maiasaura is detailed from nest-building, egg-laying, and hatching to the time those young dinosaurs joined the herd.

"This Maiasaura mother dinosaur has been guarding her eggs for many weeks. Now, one by one, her babies crack through their shells and wriggle out into the huge nest. Some stop to nibble at the blanket of rotting plants that has been keeping them warm. Others peer over the lip of the nest to take their first look at the world, 75 million years ago."

The description of dinosaur eggs compares a Maiasaura, a Proceratops, and a Hypselosaurus egg to a chicken egg.

"Some eggs were round, but most were long and fat. The biggest were the size of a football."

A large portion of the book is devoted to the herd life of plant-eating dinosaurs. Illustrations show scenes of large herds while the text explains that after huge numbers of huge animals moved through an area, all the vegetation was gone -- trees were "stripped bare."

The author describes unique activities of Apatosaurus, Edmontosaurus, Pachycephalosaurus, and Triceratops -- all dinosaurs that lived in groups. Some traveled hundreds of miles for food. Others could use bumps or horns on their heads to make a honking noise, warning of danger. Many of these dinosaurs continued to protect their young.

"A Triceratops herd backed into a circle if attacked, with babies in the center and big males pointing their horns outward."

Maynard then focuses on the sauropods, long-necked dinosaurs (the really big ones!) that also lived in herds. An illustration of an elephant (13 feet long) in the midst of long necks up to 99 feet long offers a visual jolt. Maynard's words offer readers vivid comparisons as well.

  • "Barosaurus was as tall as a five-story house."
  • "A long-neck's footprint was about 4 feet long..."
  • "...[I]t swallows everything, without chewing, down a neck as long as a telephone pole."

MEAT EATERS

The terrible lizard itself, Tyrannosaurus rex hasn't been forgotten. An expert at stalking prey, T. rex is the grand meat-eater of the dinosaurs. And just reading about such an animal makes readers happy that they live in different times. It is also the kind of reading that will capture many reluctant readers!

"The big hunter stalks them quietly. Then, when it is just 380 feet away, it erupts from the trees like a roaring express train. In just a few seconds, well before its victims can rise and run away, it is on them. Its huge, heavy jaws tear into one of the young dinosaurs with a wild killing bite."

A recognition that dinosaurs had to work hard to eat and went through periods of hunger opens a section about hunting. Allosaurus was a big meat-eater and knew how to satisfy its hunger by capturing prey.

"Allosaurus tears out chunk after chunk of flesh and bone and swallows them whole. It gorges till its belly is bloated. Then it staggers away to lie down and doze for hours, just like a well-fed lion."

THEN THEY WERE GONE

After ruling the world for 160 million years, all the dinosaurs died out. The theory of a huge meteorite hitting Earth is described and illustrated. Students also learn about fossilized bones, digging up dinosaur bones, and reconstruction of a dinosaur skeleton. Scientists are shown at work in the field.

Read The Best Book of Dinosaurs, and when your students talk about the big movie lizard, you will be able to counter with the answers to

  • Which dinosaur had teeth as long as bananas?
  • Some dinosaurs gulped down stones as they ate. Why?
  • Triceratops was not the only three-horned dinosaur. What were the other ones?
  • Some dinosaurs used their tails for defense. Which ones? How did their tails differ?

DINOSAUR ACTIVITIES

Use The Best Book of Dinosaurs to integrate dinosaur study with other subjects.

  • Students can make up similes comparing dinosaurs' sizes, diets, method of walking, etc. to familiar 1990s items.
  • Check out the comparisons from the book. Barosaurus was "as tall as a five-story house." Visit a five-story building to illustrate the height. "A long-neck's footprint was about 4 feet long." Students can gather other objects four feet long.
  • Help students extend their vocabulary. Students can define fossil, paleontologist, meteorite, armored (dinosaurs), slash, underbelly, gorge, stagger, duckbilled (dinosaur), and reptile.

DINOSAUR LINKS

The Internet has extensive resources about dinosaurs. Actual photos of paleontology sites around the world are available at the click of a mouse. Check out these sites.

  • Alastair's Dinosaurs The dinosaur pages of 10-year old Alastair Reece include dinosaur word games and a jigsaw puzzle of a Tyrannosaurus.
  • The DOL Dinosaur Omnipedia A resource containing definitions of paleontological terms, a translation and pronunciation guide, and more.
  • Jeff's Dinosaur Picture Gallery Links to photographs of dinosaur fossils and drawings of dinosaurs and other ancient animals.
  • Constructing Online Exhibits How teachers and students (Grades 4-12) can contribute an online exhibit to the Dinofest World Wide Web site.
  • Visit a Dig A selection of photographs of scientists at work on dinosaur digs around the world.

The Best Book of Dinosaurs is available in bookstores everywhere. If you are unable to locate a copy of the book, ask your bookseller to order it for you. The book is written by Chris Maynard and illustrated by James Field, Chris Forsey, Christian Hook, and Steve Kirk. It is published by KINGFISHER. Write to KINGFISHER, Larousse Kingfisher Chambers Inc., 95 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016.

Article by Anne Guignon
Education World®
Copyright © 2004 Education World

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Originally published 06/01/1998