Inspiring Young Readers
A First Book of Dinosaurs by Simon Mole, illustrated by Matt Hunt
Dinosaurs are a perennial favourite of school projects, museum visits and plenty of books. It’s not hard to understand why these extraordinary creatures are so powerful when it comes to capturing the imagination of young and old alike – there is something magical, almost mythical about them. It’s sometimes hard to adjust your mind to the notion that they were once real, living creatures and not some kind of fictional creation.
It would be easy to assume that the world of the dinosaur has been done to death in just about every format you can imagine. Finding a new and refreshing way of making the topic exciting again in book form might seem to be asking way too much – until, that is, you pick up Simon Mole’s new volume and find yourself dazzled by informative, lean verses that introduce us to these prehistoric creatures. Working almost symbiotically with Matt Hunt’s stunning, generous colour illustrations, the book manages to find new territory and fresh insights that makes the dinosaurs live again.
Much of the success of the book lies in the brilliant simplicity of the format. Each dinosaur is given their own descriptive verse and illustration that occupies a double page spread. What I really enjoyed was that in what amounts to very few words, Mole slips in some really delightful details that everyone – young or older reader – can easily relate to. Take the example of the entry for Giganotosaurus:
“A Giganotosaurus’s head is the size of a human.
Just its head, bigger than the whole of your body!
Just its TONGUE, bigger than the whole of your body!
A huge, hot, slobbery slab of wibbly muscle,
long enough for you to lie down on,
with your arms stretched out over your head.
A tongue. Big enough. To be your bed.”
How could you not be thrilled by this? A tongue as big as you and in your bed! It sends shivers up your spine.
And there’s plenty more like that to discover here.
I was also really impressed by the last half dozen pages which takes us into the discipline of fossil-hunting and what these tell us about what happened to those dinosaurs that might have survived the meteor-apocalypse that wiped most of them out. I love the idea that we still live with direct descendants of those massive prehistoric beasts and we see them every day – flying overhead.
The other difficulty with making people grasp that dinosaurs were once real, living creatures is simply the timescales involved. They lived hundreds of millions of years ago and died out at least fifty or sixty million years before the first human walked the Earth. How do you get your head around that? The book gives it a good go at showing this in a timeline that does the job as well as anything I’ve seen before.
I can’t help but feel that this book will be a hugely popular addition to any school library and is available now from Walker Books. You can get the book from your local independent bookshop – who will be happy to order it for you if they don’t have copies on the shelf.