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Dining With Dinosaurs: A Tasty Guide to Mesozoic Munching Hardcover – September 20, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Gr 2–5—An informal introduction to the diets of the dinosaurs and creatures of the Mesozoic era. Hosted by cartoon versions of the author and her microraptor pal, the book begins with a brief overview of the different types of "vores" (carnivores, herbivores, etc.) before launching into a more in-depth investigation of each one. A colorful scene of Mesozoic life is peppered with tidbits of text that provide material and clever asides. Some spreads include "Ask a Scientist" panels, where paleontologists and other experts shed light on the methods they use to study prehistoric life. The final spread depicts a modern wildlife scene and draws some parallels between Mesozoic and contemporary animal diets. Back matter offers very helpful explanations of the food web and photosynthesis, as well as a pronunciation key for the many tricky prehistoric names and scientific words. Throughout, the text addresses readers directly and is conversational in tone, and the illustrations are humorous. VERDICT Although this volume will not completely satisfy students hungry for dinosaur information, it is an excellent appetizer to encourage further reading on the topic.—Sarah Reid, Four County Library System, NY
"From T. rex and like "mega carnivores" down to bacterial "trashivores," everyone is a guest—and also on the menu—at this paleo-pantry... bespectacled Bonner (When Dinos Dawned, Mammals Got Munched, and Pterosaurs Took Flight, 2012, etc.) squires readers through teeming scenes of dino diners, with pauses for quick Q-and-A's with paleontologists about fossil evidence, revealing close-ups of teeth and jaw structures, and other informative sidelights... Properly noting that dinosaurs shared their era with reptiles, mammals, and even true birds... who all had appetites too, she presents her subjects in painted collectives by preferred diet.... Five-star fare for librovores." -- Kirkus Starred Review
"Junior readers will be dying to get their teeth into this delightful book... packed full of scientific fact; all presented in a fun and exciting manner.” — Dinosaurnews.org
"If you are starving for dinosaur knowledge, this book serves up a full-course meal of mouthwatering Mesozoic food facts." -- Archimedes Notebook
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1) Like "Solar Eating", Guide examines the different trophic levels of Mesozoic ecosystems, beginning with "mega carnivores" (E.g. T.rex) & ending with "trashivores" (I.e. Detritivores & decomposers). Also like "Solar Eating", Guide explains how food webs & photosynthesis work. In fact, Guide does the latter even better: For 1, instead of using a trophic pyramid to explain food webs, Guide uses a trophic layer cake (To paraphrase Gaffigan, "[Pyramids] can't compete with cake"); For another, instead of explaining photosynthesis in a paragraph of text, Guide explains it in a recipe with step-by-step directions & pictures showing how to create "SUGAR FROM SUNSHINE".
2) Like "Dinosaur Block Party", Guide is hosted by a human & a dino (I.e. Bonner & "her Microraptor pal"), who compare the features of different organisms in each trophic level. Also like "Dinosaur Block Party", Guide reconstructs entire Mesozoic ecosystems (E.g. That of the Jehol Group) & interviews experts about the science behind said reconstructions (I.e. "Ask a Scientist"). In fact, Guide does the latter even better: For 1, Guide's reconstructions are similarly cartoony, but MUCH more accurate; "The insectivores" is an especially good example of that (link in the 1st comment); For another, Guide's interviews don't just tell about said science, but also show it; "Mini carnivores and omnivores" is an especially good example of that (link in the 1st comment).
My only nit-picks with Guide are the paleoart (which, while still good, is sketchier & less defined than Bonner's previous work) & the lack of explanatory/identifying text in some parts (which, while few & far between, is still weird for a book both by Bonner & for older kids).* With that in mind, I recommend reading Guide as 1) an introduction to dino ecology for younger kids, & 2) a transition to other, more adult books (E.g. Naish/Barrett's "Dinosaurs: How They Lived and Evolved" in general & Chapter 4 in particular) for older kids.
*In reference to the paleoart, don't take my word for it. Compare the cover of Guide to that of Bonner's "When Fish Got Feet, When Bugs Were Big, and When Dinos Dawned: A Cartoon Prehistory of Life on Earth". In reference to the lack of explanatory/identifying text, I'm specifically referring to "The raptors: midsize predators" & "Who ate who"/"Who eats who today?": The former makes a "Raptor Prey Restraint" reference ("The raptors couldn't fly, but feathered arms may have been used...for keeping their balance during an attack"), but doesn't explain it; The latter are meant to draw parallels between Mesozoic & modern ecosystems, yet only "Who ate who" identifies the different organisms in its ecosystem.
Hannah Bonner does a great job of including all parts of the food web during the Mesozoic era. It's only 48 pages long, but tons of information is packed into each page. There are tons of dinosaurs mentioned, but she educates readers on things like the plants from that era too. The different types of trees, the evolution of flowering plants, etc, are all touched upon.
The illustrations in Dining with Dinosaurs are simple and 'friendly', with little details that will make children laugh. There are also small things that illustrator snuck in here and there that will make adults laugh, too. (Ex: a menu that reads "Note: We serve only free range herbivores" at the bottom.) Done in what appears to be colored pencil, they also depict the now accepted (feathered) representation of dinosaurs. There are also "Ask a Scientist" sections where paleontologists and coprolite experts answer a few questions.
Given that this book is aimed at readers who are ages 7 to 10, I think Hannah Bonner did a great job of striking just the right note in Dining with Dinosaurs. The book has a playful appearance but doesn't slack on filling little heads with tons of information. The illustrations do a great job of reinforcing the text in a sometimes unconventional manner. It's written simply enough that even the younger end of the age range will able to understand at least most of what they read. But it's also got enough information in it to keep older readers engaged too.
It's not a book I'd necessarily recommend for children who are already reading a lot about dinosaurs. It would probably be too simple for them. However, for readers who are just now discovering an interest in the giants from our past, I'd definitely recommend it. Dining with Dinosaurs: A Tasty Guide to Mesozoic Munching is cute, fun, and informative.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration.
In fact, I learned so much I wouldn't even know where to begin. I noticed on the above page an extinct plant called bennettite. It caught my eye since our son's name is Bennett. I had never heard of that plant before.
I began to wonder how the researchers know so much about what the different types of dinosaurs ate. Mostly they can tell from the type of teeth they had. They even included an illustration of an actual size T. Rex tooth. Small, sharp teeth meant they likely ate insects. Large teeth, usually meant they were carnivores or piscivores, fish eaters. The book even describes the way their food was digested.
This book is so creative and fun, I actually think any kid or parent would enjoy reading through this book whether they like dinosaurs or not. There is so much to see on each page, it may take a few nights of bedtime stories to get through it all. There are also 18 PB & J sandwiches hidden throughout the book. I haven't even found them all yet.
National Geographic Kids knows how to get kids interested in science, animals, or our world by sharing information in fun and creative ways. This book is a sure winner!
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.