Monday, December 22, 2014

Nonfiction Monday: The Griffin and the Dinosaur by Marc Aronson and Adrienne Mayor, illustrations by Chris Muller

I've read several "the glory of research" books and was left completely uninterested. This, however, was different.

The book starts with a brief chapter introducing Adrienne Mayor. She was not traditionally educated, with degrees, but she was curious and observed the world around her, had access to libraries and travel, and was looking for something to be her passion. Then she decided to research mythological creatures, specifically the griffin, and see if they had basis in fact. This book takes us through her research, finally relating the myth of the griffin to ancient people's observation of fossilized dinosaur bones. Along the way she suffered many setbacks but also received help from sympathetic professors and in the end not only proved her theory but showed that the observations of "uneducated" people could be important.

The book is in a large, picture-book format and has only 50 pages. But those pages are crammed with photographs, illustrations, maps, artifacts, and, of course, text. The text is presented in columns, which I found a little off-putting. Back matter includes further reading, resources, glossary, index, and a note from Marc Aronson on his involvement in the book.

While this isn't the typical nonfiction book I'd purchase for my library, several things set this apart. The lively writing draws the reader in through a high-interest topic - mythological creatures and dinosaurs - and keeps their interest by following the twists and turns of the plot. It's presented as an adventure with a mystery and kids will definitely stay with this one to find out the solution to all the clues.

Verdict: The layout is not quite what I would like - anything that looks like a picture book is a hard sell for my older readers (and their parents). However, the book itself rises above that and will definitely grab kids' attention. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781426311086; Published 2014 by National Geographic; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

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