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14:14 PB ELEMENTS – Did Dinosaurs Eat People? – ???

February 19, 2015

Help me, please, with this book.

Did Dinosaurs Eat People 1Did Dinosaurs Eat People?
author, Donna Bowman
illustrator, Marjorie Dumortier
(c) 2010, Picture Window Books
(a division of Capstone)

(1,594 words, AR Reading Level 3.4)

Plot?  Not a drop.
Theme? Obscure. Too simple–dinosaurs.
Conflict? Nope. They’re extinct. And so is their conflict.
Pacing? Random…more like browsing on the internet. Or really, more like channel surfing.
Word play? Nah.
No Rhyme. Not even internal.
Really, no Beginning or Ending.
Character? Not much. I mean, there’s meat eaters and veggie lovers.
Dialogue?  Roaaarhhh!  So much for that.

Don’t get me wrong. The book is clever.  I picked it up because the topic has been a favorite since I was 5 and first marveled at a two-page-spread brontosaurus skeleton in the Golden Book Encyclopedia.

So, what’s left? I guess it must be PATTERN.  The cleverness I refer to is in the structure of the text.  The title clearly declares this story element, which acts as the lure of the book from the outset.

A Q&A approach is bound to intrigue a shelf-browser of any age.  Author Bowman has taken “questions kids have about dinosaurs” (clever subtitle) and arranged them in a pattern throughout Dumortier’s fun pen-and-watercolor illustrations with paragraphic answers.

Did Dinosaurs Eat People 2Another clever feature about this approach is that each question is accompanied by a child’s name and age:  “Antonio, age 8”  “Sara, age 6”   “Hollister, age 7”  Even some questions are listed from schools:  “How did dinosaurs go to the bathroom?  Partin Elementary School.”

This pattern of questions and answers (questions I suppose from real kids and real schools) is the hook and draw for this book.

Not to mention that the illustrations are fun–there’s comedy in every scene (another form of pattern). A tyrannosaurus on page nine holds his nose standing beside a stinky pile of diplodocus poop.  (Must have been those ferns.)

Not surprising, this is one in a group of trade non-fiction books, the Kids’ Questions series by the producer. I’m sure the other titles employ the same pattern technique.

What are some other ways this Q&A pattern could be applied? Would this pattern be better if accompanied by pictures of the kids asking the questions? How could this pattern play out in digital books or apps? Let me know what you think in your comments.

Meanwhile, watch where you step.  You may be walking where diplodocuses have plod.

(See a list of other reviewers posts in Christi’s latest post at Write Wild.)

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. February 19, 2015 6:34 am

    As writers/parents/adults we analyse books to see what makes them work. I have always been an avid reader but I’ve noticed that the “draw” has changed as I’ve aged. Now I need to be entertained. I need that hook that draws me in. As a child, a hook was always good but when it came to non-fiction books like this one I often didn’t care about plot or pacing or style. My desire to learn was the only hook I needed. So I think the humorous nature and silly illustrations just might be enough for this book. I am sure many knowledge-thirsty kids will soak this one up (and later, probably recant information proudly like a little scientist). Some of these books are big winners with kids.

    That being said, I do like your honest write-up here and agree that finding a “top 10 element” for this book might be difficult. For a child with a beginning interest in dinos, this might be a cute book but for older kids who want more “meaty” information, it sounds like it might miss the mark.

  2. February 19, 2015 9:39 pm

    Love your take on the Top 10! Q&A is definitely a pattern element. Lots of kids enjoy these types of books.

  3. February 19, 2015 10:06 pm

    I think you could come up with a whole different set of Top 10 for trade nonfiction, for sure. As for the pics of the kids, I would say no, because I think it makes it too specific. Here, kids can visualize themselves asking the questions, but a real picture of a kid would make it seem more “other,” I feel.

    • February 19, 2015 10:32 pm

      Good point, Katie. You’re right, pics of real kids might not allow for the ‘virtual experience’ for the kid feeling like they have asked the question. Good to remember for any future attempts I might make to use this approach.

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