I’m still fairly new to graphic novels, but I couldn’t resist this first book in the Earth Before Us series by Abby Howard. Dinosaur Empire! takes fifth-grader Ronnie (and all of its readers) on a magical and informative journey through the Mesozoic Era.The story begins as Ronnie is walking home after failing a quiz on dinosaurs. She is lamenting the fact that she has to retake the test the next day when she walks past retired paleontologist Miss Lernin’s house. Miss Lernin pops her head out of her recycling bin and offers to teach Ronnie about dinosaurs. All Ronnie has to do is climb into the recycling bin with her for an “immersive” lesson.
Because it’s a graphic novel, Ronnie jumps into the recycling bin without hesitation (yuck!). She discovers that the recycling bin is actually a Time Tunnel that will transport her and Miss Lernin back to dinosaur times. They travel using “Science Magic” (this magic also protects them from harm and lets them breathe underwater – I knew I should have studied science in university instead of music!).
And so begins their travels through the three main periods of the Mesozoic Era, with a few stops at Miss Lernin’s Learning Center along the way. They meet all of the dinosaurs I can name, and many, many I’ve never heard of!
Miss Lernin separates the dinosaurs they meet into sauropods and theropods, in addition to telling Ronnie their names. By the time Ronnie and Miss Lernin reach the “Early-ish, Almost Middle Cretaceous” Period, Ronnie is also pointing out which dinosaurs are sauropods and which are theropods.
I have to say, I LOVE Miss Lernin! If we all had the same passion for our chosen careers as she does, the world would be a happy and enthusiastic place. When she successfully teaches Ronnie the concept of phylogenetic trees, excitement screams from her fist-pump to her announcement that phylogenetic trees are awesome!
Miss Lernin doesn’t only show dinosaurs to Ronnie. At each stop in their journey, Miss Lernin also shows Ronnie the insects and mammals that exist at that time.
Ronnie’s reaction to insects is a lot like mine: When they hit the insects of the Late Jurassic period, Ronnie remarks, “Oh . . . sigh. Insects again.” Ever enthusiastic, Miss Lernin responds, “I think you mean ‘Hooray! Insects again!’ . . .” Just wonderful!
Every once in a while, the insects and mammals in Dinosaur Empire! jump in with a comment about what is happening. These little comments often made me laugh out loud as I was reading the book!
I received an advanced reader copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. We’ll be watching for the next book in the Earth Before Us series. What a great way to learn science! Dinosaur Empire! was a fabulous start to the series.
Abby Howard writes two online comics: Junior Scientist Power Hour and The Last Halloween. Monthly subscribers can follow her on Patreon.
Dinosaur Empire! will be released on August 1, 2017.
Have you read any great books lately?