I received an email a while back from Sourcebooks Kids asking if I could review some of the dinosaur themed books they publish, and since I already enjoyed a few of their previous publications, especially Dinosaur Lady, I decided to accept their offer. How to Catch a Dinosaur, by Adam Wallace & illustrated by Andy Elkerton, is one of the more enjoyable ones they have sent me so far.
The plot centers around a boy and his friends as they try to catch a dinosaur for their school science fair, reasoning that since crocodilians and sharks survived the End Cretaceous extinction, there MUST be some dinosaurs who survived as well.
This of course glosses over the fact that birds exactly fit their prediction, even as the book makes a perfunctory reference to the relationship between birds and dinosaurs. While chasing their quarry, they find a feather that they take to be a clue that they are on the right track, despite the fact that we never see scales on the particular dinosaur they’re after.
The group ultimately fails in their original goal of catching a live dinosaur, but they realize that the elaborate traps they built in pursuit of it make for excellent science fair entries in their own right (including a functioning robot built with the help of the protagonist’s mother)! While the book doesn’t teach kids a whole lot about science itself, it does impart the core principle of persistence and open-mindedness that is vital to the scientific process, demonstrating that success can in fact often arise from failure, especially in the realm of science.
I was expecting the book to reveal they had mistaken some neighborhood critter for a dinosaur, but at the end we find they were indeed hot on the heels of the real deal the whole time! We see the dino, who appears to be a small Hypsilophodon-type ornithopod in his home burrow, reading a newspaper about his pursuers’ success in the local science fair.
I tend to be biased towards more straightforward educational books, but this rhyming storybook is fun enough to read in its own right. I do appreciate the outlook it provides on the general approach to science, and can recommend on that account. My son has enjoyed reading it in bed at night, and so I can confirm it appeals to its target audience. If you’re looking for a more story-oriented rather than fact-oriented dinosaur book, I suggest giving How to Catch a Dinosaur a look!