So you think you know about dinosaurs? The evocative title perfectly reflects the contradictory upbeat attitude and challenging facts of Ben Garrod‘s series of dinosaur books for children. Each book is focused on a different dino species and is chock full of hard facts and science aimed at enthralling, teaching and challenging kids to think for themselves. While at an absolutely ANCIENT age of 23 years I am perhaps not the demographic that Ben is aiming at, nonetheless I immensely enjoyed these charming books and surprised myself by learning a lot about Triceratops, Diplodocus and Tyrannosaurus Rex.
With wide ranging topics including dinosaur jargon, recent discoveries, fossil finding, dinosaur anatomies and identifying a real dinosaur, Ben is ambitious in his efforts to teach kids real science. These little books successfully bridge the gap between the dry, technical writing of college textbooks and the somewhat inaccurate, glossy picture books aimed at children. With total finesse, Ben presents real science in an accessible format without ‘dumbing down’, allowing child readers to engage fully with the facts of dinosaurs without being disheartened by too many baffling technical terms. Although Ben does introduce some key terms and concepts (such as Arms-Races, Adaptations and Ecology), he explains them in a way that invites children (and 23 year old enthusiasts *cough-cough*) in to the fascinating field of palaeontology. Ben credits children with maturity and a real ability to understand, allowing them to fulfill their desires to be a real dino-experts.
My personal highlights were the *Ask an Expert* sections, which allow real scientists in the field to communicate their work – something scientists can have few opportunities to do, especially to such a young audience. The captivating graphic-novel-esque cartoons by the wonderful Ethan Kocak round off each book, adding an element of creativity and complementing the engaging narratives centred on the everyday struggles a dinosaur might face in its life. However, being a total bone geek, my favourite parts are the details on the skeletons and what they tell us about the probable lifestyle of each dinosaur.
In an age where science is increasingly looked at with suspicion and doubt, this series is a celebration of everything that science is really about – curiosity, quest for knowledge and a determination to find truths, and I am in no doubt that they will inspire the next generation of young scientists/dino-geeks. I know any child that is as much of an inquisitive and insufferable know-it-all as I was when I was a kid, will devour these delightful books in days, leaving them with a passion for more dino-knowledge and a lasting impression that science is for everyone.
I was fortunate enough to have these books on loan (thanks Paolo!) but have a feeling I may end up going out to buy the other three…
Written by Kim Chandler, Volunteer at National Museum of Ireland – Natural History