NONFICTION

The First Dinosaur: How Science Solved the Greatest Mystery on Earth

S. & S./Margaret K. McElderry Bks. Oct. 2019. 224p. bibliog. photos. pap. $24.99. ISBN 9781534427006.
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Gr 5 Up–Seventeenth-century Europeans, heavily influenced by the Bible, first credited fossils as proof of heavenly power. The interest surrounding these discoveries closely tracks the development of European science, particularly since the time of Robert Hooke and the earliest modern microscopes. One of Lendler’s persistent subtexts is the gradual triumph of scientific research and reasoning over religious dogmatism. For instance, it wasn’t until just after the French Revolution that Georges Cuvier, a paleontologist at the French National Museum of Natural History, was able to establish that species can become extinct. The book’s design is vibrant and inviting. Each page features multiple illustrations, including contemporaneous engravings, photographs, portraits, pull quotes, reproductions of pages from historical books, and drawings and paintings. Complementary text boxes outline related topics, such as the 11th-century Chinese scholar Shen Kuo’s writings about soil layers or the naming of the Jurassic period in the 18th century by naturalist Alexander Von Humboldt. The volume closes with a comprehensive list of image credits and a bibliography, but no online resources. There are no source notes or citations for text.
VERDICT Both a dinosaur book and a history book, this is a fascinating narrative history. A first purchase for middle and elementary schools, and an easy sell for students interested in science or history.

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