Customer Reviews: Born to Be Giants: How Baby Dinosaurs Grew to Rule the World
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on May 8, 2013
Son, age 3, is obsessed with all things dinosaur. He also likes the idea of families and babies have mommies - thought this would be a hit. He was very excited to read it right away and I didn't have a chance to look at it first - oops! It's more informational than story, which is fine; but, some of the babies get eaten and it talks about predators hunting for babies and stealing eggs. We didn't read it for awhile, then he wanted to; but, we skipped the scary parts, now he wants to read it all; so, in the end it has worked out well.
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As several tiny Maiasaura began to hatch from their eggs their mother looked in on their progress. Their heads appeared to be no larger than her eye, but one day they would be one of the giants walking the land, just like her. Dinosaurs hatched from eggs, but the eggs were different sizes. The smaller ones "were as small as a golf ball," while the "largest were as big as a loaf of French bread." Paleontologists study the life of the dinosaurs by searching for fossils. One of the more unusual finds was an area that was covered with "thousands of grapefruit-sized fossilized eggs."

This amazing find taught them a lot about the Saltasaurus, a medium-sized dinosaur whose babies were smaller than their footprints. The Argentinosaurus, one of the largest dinosaurs, may have "weighed as much as 17 elephants." Their babies "barely reached [their] mother's toes." In this book you will learn about many dinosaur species and will learn how their tiny babies, if they survived, grew to be giants like their parents. You will learn about the Argentinosaurus, the Hypacrosaurus, the Maiasura, the Oviraptor, the Psittacosaurus, the Troodon, the Saltasaurs, and the Tyrannosaurus Rex. Did you know that some scientists think that not all dinos are extinct?!

This book is a marvelous learning experience for the young dino lover. There are many fun books that fictionalize the life of dinosaurs and then there are many that gloss over the early life of the dinosaur. I found this one to be very interesting because we see several different types of dinosaurs when they we hatchlings. The fascinating illustrations point out their vulnerability and illustrate their comparative size next to their parents and other creatures. In the back of the book is a short time line, more information about the dinosaurs in the book, a glossary, a bibliography, and an interesting author's note. If you have a dino lover who is interested in learning more about their life cycles, this is one book you may wish to consider for your shelves!
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Just yesterday I had a very nice children's author from North Carolina visiting me in my library. She wanted to look at my room's collection of dinosaur books for kids, so we pulled over some chairs and took a look. After flipping through about fifteen titles, she turned to me and asked, "Is there an author that specializes in writing about dinosaurs for kids?" I was stumped. Generally speaking, authors sometimes treat dinosaurs as the topic that's going to get them a lot of money, but they aren't a topic that the writer is going to be all that interested in personally. I've seen very few write more than one book on the topic. Of course, if anybody is going to write more than one non-fiction dino book, I know of a candidate. She's only written a couple books so far, and "Born to Be Giants: How Baby Dinosaurs Grew to Rule the World" is her first about those terrible lizards. Still, considering her background, her knowledge, and her skills with a paintbrush, I'm going to harbor a guess that "Born to Be Giants" wasn't some last minute oh-I-should-write-a-dinosaur-book thought and it probably won't be her last. Ms. Judge has clearly had this book in mind for a while. You might even say she's been preparing for it since she was 15.

Dinosaurs laid eggs to create other dinosaurs. No one disputes that fact. So exactly how does a creature that weighs as much as 17 elephants care for a baby only just a bit larger than its toes? What dangers do such babies face? How could they survive? Were there dinosaurs that tended to their young? How did they keep them warm? Fed? Safe? With gorgeous watercolor renderings, author/illustrator Lita Judge sets out to answer these questions, and to educate not just kids who may not know these facts, but the adult gate-keepers as well.

As a children's librarian I am constantly amazed by how much additional information has been discovered on a given topic since I was a child. As a kid, I knew my basic dinosaurs. The Stegosaurus. The T-Rex. The now defunct Brontosaurus who went the way of Pluto. Ms. Judge highlights only eight dinosaurs that fit her topic, but with the exception of Tyrannosaurus Rex, each and every one of them was new to me. Psittacosaurus? Maiasura? Thank heavens for the pronunciation guide in the back. I can well imagine parents all over the country picking up this book to read to their small dinosaur enthusiasts, only to find themselves stumbling over the proper pronunciation of the Troodon (it's TRUE-o-don, in case you're curious). I think that's one of the things I liked best about this book too. The fact that as an adult, I found myself learning just as much as the kids would. Heck, I've just learned new words like "altricial" and "precocial" as a kind of bonus. After all these years, it's fun to feel like a kid again.

A little background on Ms. Judge. The back of this book is chock full of great additional information. There's a Glossary, a Bibliography (no websites, which is a bit of a gap), and an Author's Note. In this note, Judge discusses the fact that when she was 15 she talked her way onto a dinosaur dig from the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology. She did this for three summers, and that's not all! Ms. Judge's grandparents were also ornithologists. Appropriate considering current dinosaur-into-bird theories out there. The point is, she knows from whence she speaks. I can't think of any other author/illustrators out there for kids who have participated on dino digs but also write for kids on a variety of different topics.

The structure of the book is particularly well put together. Ms. Judge doesn't just talk about what this or that dinosaur might have done with its young. She compares and contrasts extinct creatures and tendencies with contemporary animals we're familiar with. A T-Rex's nesting techniques is compared to that of a bush turkey. Play fighting between Troodons is comparable to play fighting between wolf pups. And each time this kind of a comparison is made, Judge is careful to include an illustration of the still existing creatures/objects. I particularly liked the small trombone player seen in the distance behind a Hypacrosaurus, giving a warning call. Even the end of the book gives a sense of scale when it shows a small fedora wearing human figure beside each of the eight dinos mentioned in the book (though the one by the T-Rex is seen beating a swift retreat).

Now I am familiar with Ms. Judge. I loved her work on "Pennies for Elephants" and her first book "One Thousand Tracings: Healing the Wounds of World War II". So I'm feeling just a bit ashamed of myself when I admit that as I read through this book I found myself thinking, "Pretty pictures. I wonder who illustrated this?" Yeah. My bad. Judge is obviously on the top of her game here too. And with her background in dino knowledge I don't even doubt the physical appearance of some of these creatures. When the Argentinosaurus sports ridges down its flesh or the beaky little Psittacosaurus has strange protrusions on the sides of its face, I believe it. Kids will too, I wager.

One of the difficulties in writing a dino children's book is finding a topic that hasn't already been done to death. I don't know my books in this field as well as I might, and so I could have gone on thinking that this was the only children's title on the subject of dinosaur babies. However, in his Booklist review of this book, my boss pointed out that this title would make a for a good gateway book to more in-depth dino studies like Kathleen Zoehfeld's "Dinosaur Parents, Dinosaur Young: Uncovering the Mystery of Dinosaur Families." Of course, Zoehfeld's book comes in at 64 pages for 9-12 year olds. Judge's book, in contrast, is 48 pages and reads younger. For the kid who thinks they've seen it all, every dinosaur concept this side of the sun, "Born to Be Giants" offers something a little different for the average scaly-skinned enthusiast. Beautiful to look at, chock full of facts, and from a source you can trust, Lita Judge proved that in the world of dinos, there's an author out there to watch.

Ages 5 and up.
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on November 3, 2010
You know the kid who has read every dinosaur book in the library and has all their names memorized? [I do, and I still struggle with identifying the most basic dinosaurs.] This is the book you get him/her for the holidays or for his birthday. Why? It takes a fairly unique approach, because it focuses on the baby/growth/parenting aspect of dinosaurs, which most dinosaur books do not do. It is well-written, beautifully illustrated [I liked the newly hatched Saltasaurus eggs picture especially], and thoughtfully presented without being overwhelming. It's funny and poignant, too. I highly recommend this one and I plan to buy it as a birthday gift for a dinosaur-loving kid.
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on February 9, 2013
The book is in great shape. It arrived on time and I would gladly do business with them again in the future.
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