Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Time to Shine: The Dinosaur Expert by Margaret McNamara

Kimmy collected and shells and leaves and pebbles and feathers.

She even collected owl pellets.

But of all the things that Kimmy collected, fossils were her favorite.

So when Mr. Tiffin's class is scheduled for a field trip to the Natural History Museum, Kimmy knows she will be in her element.

Kimmy couldn't wait to share!

But Jake is used to thinking of himself as the class leader, the guy who knows it all, and when Kimmy volunteers all she knows about allosauruses, he challenges her right away.

"Girls aren't scientists." Jake declares definitively.

Kimmy grew quiet.

And as the class makes its way through the dinosaur exhibit, Kimmy reads the placards about the famous paleontologists of history--Edward Cope, Earl Douglass, O. C. Marsh. All men.

"See?" said Jake.

Mr. Tiffin leads them to a glass case with a small skeleton and asked if anyone knows what it was.

"Archaeopteryx, Jurassic period," whispered Kimmy.

Kimmy offers information about oviraptors sitting on their eggs to protect them, but when Mr. Tiffin asks her to tell the class all she knows about them, she glances at Jake and quietly declines.

But when Mr. Tiffin deftly steers the class to the case for a rare specimen, Gasparinisaura Cinco altensis, Kimmy reads the plaque which names the scientist who found and classified the specimen, Zulma de Gasparini--a woman! A woman dinosaur scientist!

Suddenly Kimmy speaks up, proud of what she knows and happy to share it.

"Early raptors had five fingers and later raptors had three." she said.

"How come?" asked Jake.

"They evolved," replied Kimmy. "They kept what they needed and changed what they didn't!"

And there is a bit of evolving going on in Mr. Tiffin's class, in Margaret McNamara's latest primary grade picture book, The Dinosaur Expert (Mr. Tiffin's Classroom Series) (Schwartz and Wade, 2018). With perceptive and carefully crafted narration, the author lets her characters gently evolve a new attitude about gender roles. Artist G. Brian Karas' subtle illustrations extend the author's text perfectly in the expressions of Kimmy and Jake's classmates and in their own faces as they subtly negotiate new roles for themselves. The latest book in this noted series reminds us that primary teachers teach more than just the facts. Says Kirkus in their starred review, "A pivotal moment in a child's life, handled with grace and sensitivity rather than conflict or ineffective lecturing."

This one is a worthy successor to McNamara's and Karas' deft collaboration in the Mr. Tiffin's Classroom series, How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? (Mr. Tiffin's Classroom Series) (read my review here.

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