However prim and proper one considers themselves, we all have a small part of our brain that can’t help enjoying a bit of gross-out humor now and then. You may have seen a meme at some point that says something to the effect of “that water you’re drinking was probably peed out by a dinosaur at some point”. Hopefully you’re one who finds it easier to enjoy such jokes than not, because today’s book follows in a similar vein!
Written by Carla Mae Jansen and illustrated by Natasha Kostovska, A Dinosaur Made Me Sneeze introduces readers to the concept of the rock cycle by way of bit of dust on a million year journey, from in the Cretaceous all the way to the present day!
The story begins as young Martin lets loose a particularly messy sneeze all over the dinner tabler one day, and in a fit of self-preservation upon seeing the ire in his shocked family’s faces, launches into a detailed about how “a dinosaur made me do it!” before they can begin to lecture him. Deflecting the blame millions of years ago, we see how the dust stirred up by dinosaurs in ages past still surrounds us today, though it may change in for as time rolls on.
As a cartoonist, Natasha Kostovska illustrates the creatures depicted in a heavily caricaturized style, which, while by no means scientifically accurate, nevertheless manage to capture their subjects’ essences well enough that knowledgeable readers can easily identify most of the creatures depicted, even without referring to the “species guide” in the back of the book. I for instance was able to tell that the two armored dinosaurs featured were meant to be Edmontonia and Ankylosaurus, respectively, and while the book simply identifies the cephalopod in the ocean scene as just a “prehistoric squid”, it’s clear Kostovska referenced Plectronoceras specifically. I point all this out despite even the fact that this isn’t the main aim of the illustrations; rather they are simply here to accentuate the silly circumstances in which Martin tells his story, and to maintain a lighthearted atmosphere. To that end, everything has a goofy charm to it, including the human characters and our lizard companion comes along for the ride.
The story depicts a decent overview of the different stages of the rock cycle that mineral particles can go through. We follow a speck of dust (accompanied by a goofy Many-Lined Skink) from its disturbance by the thundering feet of a T. rex, to its compaction and lithification on the sea floor, to its uplift on the top of a volcanic mountain, to its eventual erosion, whereupon it catches a breeze and finally makes it to the nostrils of our protagonist. If I could make one change, I would have probably included subduction somewhere along the way, which could have easily led to the volcano page. It could have also allowed for a mention of continental drift, as well. I understand that there may have been limited space to tell the story though, and that not every particle out there in the real world necessarily goes through every possible stage of the rock cycle.
I always enjoy seeing less charismatic and lesser known concepts in paleontology and geology get the spotlight in children’s books, and this one certainly delivers on that front. (For some more books on geology and deep time, check out my reviews of This World Was Made For Me, and the two storybooks on the life of Marie Tharp.) While I might have slightly different biases relating to some aspects of the art and the story, it works really well as it is, and makes for a great introduction to a key concept in geology for kids. I’m pleased to say that A Dinosaur Made Me Sneeze has earned my Dino Dad Stomp of Approval!