Thursday, April 16, 2009

Dinothesaurus by Douglas Florian

Dinothesaurus is getting reviewed everywhere (4 stars, so far!) because… well, because it’s by Douglas Florian and because IT’S ABOUT DINOSAURS! But it also happens to be truly terrific. First of all, the whole idea of poetry about dinosaur NAMES is so dead-on perfect (hurray Mike Shoulders!). Even kids who are not dinosaur fanatics, love the long, crazy, complicated names for dinosaurs. So, we end up with a great book about dinosaurs, as well as a fun book of wordplay poetry. (Even the bookflap blurb is a dinosaur poem!)

You learn about 18 different dinosaurs in 18 double-page spreads because Florian is so gifted at injecting facts into his fun and pun-filled poems, including a pronunciation guide for each dinosaur name, along with the name’s meaning. And there are unexpected dino-choices like the troodon, minim, and micropachycephalosaurus—see what I mean about those tongue-pleasing names? Opening and closing poems provide bookend context about dinosaur eras and possible causes for their demise.

One of my favorite components is the backmatter in this book, including the “Glossarysaurus” with an additional expository paragraph to accompany each poem, an annotated list of “Dinosaur Museums and Fossil Sites” and a “Selected Bibliography and Further Reading” list. These are usually features of a nonfiction book, so I am tickled to see these features in a (fact-filled) poetry book.

Florian’s poems are so rhythmic and regular that they are perfect for performing chorally with various groupings of kids. Here’s one example that is fun for echo reading. YOU read the first line, the kids echo the line, you read the next, they echo, line-by-line—an excellent strategy to use with young kids, non-readers, and English learners. Try it. It almost sounds like a chant or a yell for the playground.

steg-oh-SAW-rus (roof lizard)
by Douglas Florian

Dined on plants inside the forest.
Bony plates grew on its back,
Perhaps to guard it from attack.
Or to help identify
A Stegosaurus girl or guy.
Its brain was smaller than a plum.
Stegosaurus was quite DUMB.

Florian, Douglas. 2009. Dinothesaurus. New York: Simon & Schuster, p. 5.

And of course with Douglas Florian we get a double whammy with art that is distinctive and stands on its own (two or four) feet! (My “Everyday Poetry” column for Book Links magazine in July is about poets who are artists, namely DF!) He employs a wonderful variety of media, including watercolor, crayon, cut paper collage, and rubber stamps (and I am a rubber stamp FREAK, so I love that!). This combination of materials creates layered, textured illustrations that bear poring over for fun and tiny details. Kids may enjoy trying their own dino-collages to match.

For more details, check Florian’s own awesome blog, FlorianCafe.

Image credit:

Posting (not poem) by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2009. All rights reserved.


laurasalas said...

This is such a great book, for all the reasons you said--it's just delightful!

Sylvia Vardell said...

Yes, you'd think Douglas might coast on his rep, but he continues to create unique and "meaty" poetry collections!