Monday, September 7, 2009

Book Review: Barnum Brown: Dinosaur Hunter

Barnum Brown: Dinosaur Hunter by David Sheldon. (Grades 1-4.)
Walker Books for Young Readers, 2006.

One thing I love about biographies and memoirs is that they can make you feel like you actually know the person you're reading about.

When Barnum Brown was growing up, he loved to explore his Kansas hometown and find fossils. It was the end of the 19th century and the Great Dinosaur Rush was going on - many dinosaur fossils were being discovered all the time. Barnum knew that when he grew up he wanted to study dinosaurs.

And study dinosaurs Barnum did! He became a paleontologist and worked for the American Museum of Natural History, searching out and digging up dinosaur fossils. Barnum discovered the first Tyrannosaurus Rex fossils as well as the first fossils of many other dinosaurs.

Reading this book made me think about how exciting it must have felt to be among the first scientists to discover the dinosaurs. I mean, how cool would that have been? The vibrant illustrations in a palette of greens and browns take you back to the turn of the century. The beautiful background landscapes of the badlands evoke the harsh, beautiful surroundings in which Barnum Brown and his colleagues worked.

The book includes an author's note that fills in more details about Barnum Brown's life and discoveries. It also includes a short resource guide and a listing of the museums that house the fossils described in the book. This would be an excellent addition to a unit on dinosaurs or a book to read before a field trip to one of the museums. Kids (and adults) will be fascinated by Barnum's story.

Barnum Brown: Dinosaur Hunter is on the 2009-2010 YHBA nominees list in the picture book category.

Happy Nonfiction Monday! The Miss Rumphius Effect has the round-up.