Science Comics: Coral Reefs - Cities of the Ocean by Maris Wicks AND Dinosaurs - Fossils and Feathers by MK Reed and Joe Flood, 120 pp, RL 3

The fantastic publisher FirstSecond, whose motto is precisely and perfectly, "Great graphic novels for every reader," started a new non-fiction series for kids this year. Science Comics: Get to Know Your Universe debuts with superb creators and subjects, Coral Reef: Cities in the Ocean by Maris Wicks and Dinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers by MK Reed  and Joe Flood

Wicks, author of the excellent non-fiction graphic novel for kids, Human Body Theater, worked as a part-time program educator at the New England Aquarium and just spent two months doing scientific outreach for  Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on board the R/V Atlantis! Her passion and knowledge shine through in Coral Reefs: Cities of the Ocean and her introduction is definitely worth reading, especially when she tells readers that we, "make choices that impact the environment with every dollar you spend, every action you take, and every vote that you cast," and encourages us to plant a milkweed, listing all the benefits of giving Monarch butterflies a food source and breeding habitat that can trickle down and benefit the dying coral reefs. With humor and an understanding for her audience, Wicks starts big with a first chapter titled, "What is Coral?" describing the classification system. Chapter Two, "How and Where Coral Reefs are Formed," where I learned that, despite the fact that coral reefs occupy about 1% of the earth's surface, cora reefs are home to more than 25% of all the animals found in the ocean! Chapter Three, "The Coral Reef Ecosystem Explored" takes a closer look at the 25% of the sea life living there and Chapter Four, "How are Coral Reefs Connected to the Rest of the Planet?" is the longest and possibly most important chapter in the book. From start to finish, Wicks makes Coral Reefs: Cities of the Ocean as vibrantly bright and compelling as a healthy coral reef with her popping palette and engaging writing style. A glossary, bibliography and additional resources included in the back matter.

I have to, with great embarrassment, confess that, despite learning a fair bit about dinosaurs as each of my three children went through that phase of fascination, I tend to think of them as static. Dinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers, by MK Reed and Joe Flood, with an introduction by a dinosaur expert, changed my mind in a big way. In his introduction alone, Leonard Finkleman, Ph.D points out the many things that continue to be discovered about dinosaurs, as well as dinosaurs themselves, including the fact that once we didn't even know that dinosaurs lived on every continent. He goes on to write that Reed and Flood bring a "balance of science, philosophy, and history," to their book that is, "informative, funny, and, above all else, imaginative," noting that the lesson of Dinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers is that scientific discovery is very different from normal discovery. Finkleman writes, "Rather than limiting our imaginations, scientific discovery lets us imagine more about the world around us." With that in mind, Wicks and Flood follow paleontologists through history as they try to solve the greatest mystery of all, what happened to the dinosaurs?

Dinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers begins with a little time traveling, showing readers how ancient humans discovering dinosaur fossils thought they were anything from cyclopes to elephants to griffins. In the year 1800, these ideas changed radically when Mary Anning made remarkable finds on the Dorset coast, spending the next 35 years fossil hunting. They also detail the backhanded, sometimes dishonest machinations of the men who made these discoveries and pronouncements and delivered papers about these dinosaurs.

Joe Flood's illustrations are perfectly matched to the subject matter of Dinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers. While the illustrations of the dinosaurs are full of action and expression. The panels with humans present more of a challenge, because of the mostly Victorian time period and somewhat static nature of their roles int he story, yet Flood makes these compelling, especially through the expressions of the characters. There are notes, a glossary and further reading as well as two superb representations of the periods of the dinosaurs. Despite all this amazing information and illustrations, my favorite part of Dinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers comes at the end when the author and illustrator put themselves on the page an error in the text. There are 11 years between my oldest and youngest child. I learned that the big herbivore with the long neck was called the brontosaurus when my first child went through her dinosaur phase. By the time my youngest was going through his we learned that it was now reclassified as an Apatosaurus. On this page, Reed and Flood explain that, a few weeks before this book was due at the printer, researchers concluded that there was in fact enough difference between the two to make the Brontosaurus its own genus again, with a fact box noting that the Brontosaurus is now, "MK and Joe's least favorite dinosaur." With humor and knowledge, Dinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers proves that dinosaurs are anything but static.

Coming October, 2016 and February, 2017

Source: Review Copies

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