Books about Fossils

Dear Reader,

We have been studying geology in our homeschool this year. I had posted previously about many of the books we have used. Up until this time it was mostly rocks, plate tectonics, etc. But lately we have been reading about fossils and dinosaurs so I thought I would share with you the books we have been using on those topics. As a warning, I am not a young earth creationist (see this post, among many others). Some of these books might still be acceptable if you are, but most would not.

The first few books we read were about people who hunted fossils:

Rare Treasure by Don Brown — a picture book about Mary Anning

Barnum’s Bones by Tracey Fern — another picture book about a guy named Barnum Brown

Dinosaur Hunter by Elaine Marie Aplhin — an easy reader type chapter book about some boys who discover some bones. My 8-year-old enjoyed it.

The Hunt for the Mastodon by Georgianne Ensign is also about boys discovering bones (mastodon, not dinosaur, obviously). It is  a longer book (my 10-year-old read it) and gives more info along the way about the animals.

Some other shorter books that my two younger kids also read:

A Woolly Mammoth Journey by Debbie S. Miller — a picture book that tells of a mammoth family and how they lived. It’s fairly simple but I think my 8yo liked it.

The Crocodiles Still Wait by Carol Carick — another shorter, simpler picture book but my 10yo appreciated the battles between an ancient crocodile and some dinosaurs.

Saber-Toothed Tiger by Joanna Cole — we are actually doing this one next week. It is another picture book about prehistoric mammals. It looks good.

Some books we read together:

Tiniest Giants by Lowell Dingus and Luis Chiappe — this is the story of an excavation in Argentina in which they found a large cache of dino eggs and the first fossilized embryonic dinosaur skin. It is written by a couple of the people on the expedition. It is  a bit dry in parts but does a good job of showing the process they go through. It definitely takes 4-5 sittings to get through.

Dinosaur Ghosts by J. Lynett Gillette — I am not sure this is the best written book but for some reason it took hold around here. It is a longish picture book type. It tells about a cache of dino fossils found in the American west (can’t remember which state; Arizona?) and theorizes about how they all came to be there at once and how they died. It is presented as a puzzle which I suppose is why my kids got into it. After the first days reading, I asked the kids how they thought the dinos had died. The littler two were very excited about the idea that there might have been a giant battle. But for some reason my 10yo son could not get over the idea that if they had all killed each other something must have happened to the last one left. He didn’t seem convinced when we suggested if there was a last one it could have just left and not been found there. Finally he decided that the last one must have died of amnesia. After laughing at him a while, we asked him if he knew what amnesia was. The most surprising thing is that he did (thank you, Dukes of Hazzard). So we pictured this last dinosaur sitting on a  pile of his friends’/foes’ bones and wondering who he is and why he is there and finally dying because he couldn’t remember to go home or eat. The real solution is  a lot less satisfying. We were able to discuss how scientists sometimes just don’t know all the answers though.

The Tales Fossils Tell by Jonathan R. Gallant — Gallant is one of those very prolific kids’ authors with books on every subject one can imagine. I was looking for  a general overview to read aloud to all my kids and this was the best I found. It is a bit dry but was bearable. I liked when they discussed the earliest ideas people had about fossils.

Finally a couple of books good for bigger kids. Both of these are real treasures:

Forgotten by Time by Robert Silverberg — This is a wonderful book if you can find it. It is all about “living fossils” which the author defines as animals or plants which bridge gaps between categories (is it a fish or a reptile?) or which have survived over long millenia with little change. It is very well written. I read the whole thing myself and am now having my two older kids read it. Not only is the subject matter intriguing, Silverberg makes a good story out of each case.

The Great Whale of Kansas by Richard W. Jennings — This is the fictional account of a boy in Kansas who discovers a fossil in his backyard. It is a compelling story. It slips in some few tidbits about the various eras and epochs, but mostly it is just fun.




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