Book Review: How the Dinosaur Got to the Museum

How the Dinosaur Got to the MuseumHow the Dinosaur Got to the Museum by Jessie Hartland

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Text and illustrations have an extra partnership in this book. There is an echo of “The Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly” in Hartland’s prose, as each profession builds on the work of others to put a fossil on exhibit, and each job title is inserted into the text with a sign designed in a way that’s appropriate for that job … It’s hard to explain, but as soon as you see it, you’ll understand. These design clues help beginning readers track difficult-yet-interesting words like “paleontologist,” and they also allow advanced readers to see the interconnected workings of all these specialists, particularly when some of those specialists reappear a second time.

I feel like I know what Hartland’s own art studio looks like, too: the illustrations include all the detritus of each profession, twine and nails and mud scattered about the appropriate scenes. As the reader, I felt an appreciation for this attention to detail because it showed me the procedural details of each stage of mounting a museum display in a way that simple, descriptive writing could not (not while staying interesting, at least).

When confronted with a high-quality nonfiction book, I forget to evaluate the most important aspect: does it communicate the subject matter? Absolutely. Without overloading the pages with text (careful focus plus excellent end materials are key here), Hartland answers a very important question to those kids who adore dinosaurs: “How can I be a part of this awesomeness?” Despite having thirty more years of cocktail party “what do you do?” small talk experience than the target audience, I still learned about the professionals involved in getting a dinosaur into a museum.

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