Dinosaur Mountain: Digging into the Jurassic Age

Dinosaur Mountain: Digging into the Jurassic Age by Deborah Kogan Ray

Ray returns with another great picture book biography.  This time she turns her talents to the story of Earl Douglass and the “Bone Wars” of the turn of the century where paleontologists competed to find the big dinosaur skeletons.  Though the biggest finds had been made in Colorado and Wyoming, Douglass followed his instincts and  headed to northeastern Utah.  The book chronicles his discoveries as he worked the site through prose as well as excerpts from his personal letters.  It also tells of the problems with protecting the area and funding that Douglass faced later in his career and that culminated in Woodrow Wilson creating the Dinosaur National Monument.

Ray’s writing is an invitation to learn more.  Filled with interesting and enticing facts, she tells the story of the person as well as the accomplishments.  Children will love the details about how a dig site works and the excitement of the big finds.  They will also learn about the importance of doing what you love and following your gut instinct. 

Ray’s art adds much to story, from detailed explanations of Jurassic strata and paleontology tools to her larger paintings that tell the story of discovery.  Her large vistas bring the setting clearly to life too.  The book ends with a listing of the dinosaurs found at the site, a map of the Monument, more information on Douglass and his benefactor Andrew Carnegie, a glossary, and a bibliography. 

Highly recommended, this book will be enjoyed by children who enjoy dinosaurs and history.  Ideal for reading before visiting the Dinosaur National Monument, this book can also be used to inspire children to make their own discoveries about the world around them.  Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from copy received from Farrar Straus Giroux.


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The Books of Elsewhere: The Shadows

The Books of Elsewhere: The Shadows by Jacqueline West

Released June 2010.

A delightful romp of a book that combines mystery and fantasy, this book is filled with laughs, tension and plenty to discover.  After Old Ms. McMartin dies alone in her house, Olive and her mathematician parents move in.  The house is Victorian and filled with antiques and paintings.  Olive notices that the paintings are strange, but it isn’t until after she is warned of danger by a talking cat and finds some special spectacles that she learns the secret of the paintings.  By wearing the glasses, she can enter the world of the paintings.  But the mysteries go far deeper than that as does the pleasure of this read.  I will leave it to you to make your own discoveries in The Shadows.

Debut author, West, has written a book that is seasoned and tightly woven.  She has woven the tension of a good mystery with magical touches that make this book sparkle. West’s writing is something special.  She creates great images with her descriptions throughout the book.  One of my favorites is on page 20:

The basement of the old house was made mostly of stone, with some patches of packed dirt poking through, and other patches of crumbling cement trying to hide the dirt.  The effect was like an ancient, stale birthday cake frosted by a blindfolded five-year-old.

Sigh.  It captures so much not only about the basement it is describing, but also the atmosphere of the entire novel.  The above quote is from the advanced reader copy of the book.

Olive is a protagonist who is very human, often lonely, and at the same time clever, funny and just the type of person one would want for a friend.  The villains in the book are handsomely evil and thoroughly enjoy it.  The dangers are grippingly written, helping to add to pleasure of this light read that has wonderful dark moments too.  This is a book to be raced through and then read again to see all of the details and foreshadowing.

This book would work well as a classroom read aloud or a bedtime read with older children, but the best way to read it would be under the covers with a flashlight!  Get this into the hands of Coraline fans who will find a similar heroine to enjoy here.  Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Check out the trailer for the book:

Reviewed from ARC received from Penguin.

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48 Hour Book Challenge

MotherReader is once again hosting her 48 Hour Book Challenge.  This will be the fifth time she has held this event.  Here are some of the details:

The weekend is June 4–6, 2010. Read and blog for any 48-hour period within the Friday-to-Monday-morning window. Start no sooner than 7:00 a.m. on Friday the fourth and end no later than 7:00 a.m. Monday the sixth. So, go from 7:00 p.m. Friday to 7:00 p.m. on Sunday… or maybe 7:00 a.m. Saturday to 7:00 a.m. Monday works better for you. But the 48 hours do need to be in a row. That said, during that 48-hour period you may still have gaps of time in which you can’t read, and that’s fine.

You can head to her blog to find out more about the books you can read, how the winners are selected, and much more.  Now to take a look at my calendar and see if I can finally participate!