Nonfiction Monday: Dinosaurs in Your Backyard
I had heard about feral (see: wild) cats before last spring, but I didn’t take much notice until I discovered a pack of them living in my backyard. Nowadays, if you’re talking feral (approximate percentage of the population who are “talking feral”: 0.01%), I’m all ears. Indeed, subjects take on new meaning when there is a personal connection. Banking on this truism, Dinosaurs in Your Backyard sets out to school readers on the dinos that once roamed close to home, in the United States. Not a universal source for all things prehistoric and reptilian, Dinosaurs in Your Backyard successfully narrows the focus.
The first thing readers need to realize is that the United States of America (or the land on which it would one day stand) looked quite different 70 million years ago. This difference is described up front, establishing the context for the dinosaur details that follow. Each two-page spread tackles a different group of dino, beginning with Tyrannosaurs and continuing through ocean dwellers, duckbills, horned dinos, and points in between. The book concludes with more big-picture information, with sections dedicated to dinosaur extinction, a nice timeline , glossary, and recommended reading guide.
The information presented is solid, making this title worthwhile for student reports and general fact-finding. The absence of a table of contents is a slight hitch, but not a major blow to its usefulness.
Barnard does well in creating illustrations that are visually interesting, but occasionally a stiffness creeps in. I realized while reading that the illustrations in nonfiction dinosaur books never seem to really wow me. I’m not sure if it’s the artist’s focus on making the depictions as accurate as possible, but the stiffness I mentioned is a fairly common trait among books in this category.
By keeping things local, Dinosaurs in Your Backyard will make a nice addition to your dino section and will work well for pleasure reading. Now if they would just come out with Feral Cats in Your Backyard, I’d be all set.
Check out the Nonfiction Monday roundup at SimplyScience Blog.
Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.
About Travis Jonker
Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.
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