There’s no such thing as too many dinosaur books, but it is possible to get a little worn out with book after book featuring the same old, same old dinosaurs. Science Comics: Dinosaurs takes a new approach, packing a comprehensive look at their discovery and scientific advancements into 118 pages of art and text.
An introduction from Leonard Finkelman expounds on the imagination and creativity in scientific discovery and sets the tone for the book. The comics begin with the rise and fall of the dinosaurs and the first discovery of their fossils by humans. At first, people imagined the fossils denoted mythological beasts who lived long ago. However, as the Industrial Revolution began, they found more and more fossils and grew curious about where they came from. The first section ends in 1800 and lists the current knowledge of the day—dinosaurs are monsters, they lived a few thousand years ago, and there are no living examples of dinosaurs. “We are certain about all of this.” The next chapter begins with the life of Mary Anning and the advancement of scientific knowledge throughout the 1800s. More and more scientists, their eccentricities and theories, are introduced. New dinosaurs are discovered and by the time 1854 rolls around, there is a whole new set of “certain” facts that scientists know. The next section introduces Charles Darwin and the radical changes brought by his publication of The Origin of the Species, specifically as pertaining to dinosaurs. More and more fossils were discovered outside of England, especially in America, giving rise to the Bone Wars between Othniel Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope. Additional theories and facts are brought to light. Then it’s 1920 and “Dinosaurs are known as extinct reptiles. They lived 3 million years ago.” These and other facts are definite. But the story doesn’t end here. The study of fossils expands into the Gobi Desert, is temporarily halted by the Second World War, but some intrepid researchers carry on, eventually developing the theory of plate tectonics. New discoveries are made, new scientific processes are applied, and by the year 2000 there is a whole new set of absolutely certain facts. The book finishes with modern scientific advances and dinosaur discoveries, inspiration for a new generation of paleontologists, and even a last-minute fact about the Brontosaurus from April 2015, just before the book’s publication. Back matter of the book includes notes, a glossary, an illustrated guide to various ages (Permian, Triassic, etc.) and suggestions for further reading.
The text is brisk and informative, clearly explaining complicated terms and scientific development. It blends seamlessly with the art, with is bold and colorful. The spiky bones and dull colors of the imagined dinosaurs at the beginning gradually give way to feathers, brilliant splashes of color, and exciting new images of dinosaurs as scientific knowledge advances. The various personalities are sketched in deftly, from the friendly enthusiasm of Cuvier to the sly creepiness of Owen, hapless Mantell, swashbuckling Andrews, and intelligent Anning. It all leads up to an increasing diversity in paleontologists, scientists, and dinosaurs as more and more discoveries are made and the illustrations expand in color and interest.
Middle grade readers who claim to have long ago outgrown their dinosaur phase will once again be caught up in the excitement of these creatures as they learn a whole new vocabulary of scientific discovery and are inspired by new developments and exciting historical stories. This is a great selection not only for pleasure reading and browsing, but also to supplement school studies in history and science.
Science Comics: Dinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers
by MK Reed, Joe Flood
First Second, 2016
Publisher Age Rating: 5-8