Review: Skulls! by Blair Thornburgh

Skulls by Blair Thornburgh

Skulls! by Blair Thornburgh, illustrated by Scott Campbell (9781534414006)

This picture book is a rousing look at your head bones or skull. The book uses clever analogies to allow young children to understand the importance of your skull, such as skulls are “like a car seat for your brain” in the ways that they keep your brain safe. Skulls have your jaws and also your teeth, until they fall out. They have holes for various senses, including eating grilled cheese sandwiches. The book encourages children to not be scared of skulls because they are so very important.

This is Thornburgh’s debut picture book and it’s wonderfully unusual and interesting. She uses repetition cleverly in the middle of the book, almost creating a refrain about the holes in skulls, grilled cheese sandwiches and teeth falling out. Her focus on a child’s understanding is clear, creating scenarios that they will respond to and not making skulls frightening but fascinating.

Campbell’s watercolor illustrations are full of energy. He creates scenes full of life that then turn to full of bones at the turn of the page. His humor and zaniness keep the book from ever being creepy except in the friendliest of ways.

Face this one head on! Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from copy provided by Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Review: Barnum’s Bones by Tracey Fern

barnums bones

Barnum’s Bones: How Barnum Brown Discovered the Most Famous Dinosaur in the World by Tracey Fern, illustrated by Boris Kulikov

Barnum Brown was fascinated with fossils from the time he was a toddler following behind his father’s plow.  His collection got so large, it outgrew his bedroom and he was forced to move out to the laundry house with his finds.  In college, Barnum got to go on digs in the summers of 1894 and 1895 in South Dakota and Wyoming.  Barnum got a reputation for being a great bone hunter, collecting more than 1400 pounds of bones!  The American Museum of Natural History in New York City didn’t have a dinosaur on display, so they hired Barnum to do fossil digs for the museum.  Barnum continued to prove he could find bones, but he never found a new species, even though others were discovering them.  All that changed when he found a huge bone, discovering the first T. Rex.

This book is science and hard work made fascinating and cool.  I appreciated the fact that this is not just a book about Barnum’s great find, but also all of the determination and time that it took to make that find.  Readers travel along with Barnum through the heat and mosquitoes to find bones.  The amazing hauls that he made before finding T. Rex are mind-boggling.  The persona of Barnum is an interesting one too.  His dandy clothes, wearing a fur coat and nice shoes on digs makes for an even more fascinating scientist. 

Kulikov’s illustrations use glowing outlines of the dinosaurs being discussed to show readers the form of the dinosaur.  What could have been a frustrating part of the book becomes all the more intriguing and inviting.  His illustrations are playful, contrasting dusty old-fashioned colors with the bolder colors of the night sky and burning campfires. 

This is a book that will inspire children to search for their own fossils, whether they are as big as a T. Rex or not.  Appropriate for ages 7-9.

Reviewed from library copy.


Bones by Steve Jenkins

Really all any book needs is Steve Jenkins’ name on the front and his great illustrations inside.  Just those two things and you know it’s going to be great.  In this book, Jenkins turns his attention to bones and skeletons.  The size and shape of bones are explored as are skeletons of the human body and of various animals.  Information is given about bones and the illustrations of the bones are laid out on very colorful pages that highlight the bones but offer some vibrancy as well.  This book of bones should be in every school and public library.

Jenkin’s text here offers just enough detail to be informative but also never too much too be weighty.  It offers the same bright, freshness as the illustrations themselves.  His illustrations are studies in restraint as he works his paper magic using a very limited boney palette of colors.  The design of the book makes it rather like an archeological discovery, since you never know what bones you will find when you turn the page.  Several of the pages fold out to offer large scale illustrations, including a full human skeleton.  Along the way, readers are asked questions and get to think about the body, the bones and how they function.

A virtuoso book, pull this one out for Halloween and get some sweet science mixed in with the candy.  It is appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from library copy.