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Dinosaurs Alive! not only describes the connection between birds and dinosaurs, but also uses the topic of dinosaurs to teach children about evolution and the nature of science. The book gives interesting factual information about certain dinosaur traits, discusses the changes that occurred in these traits over time and how the traits favored survival, and demonstrates the link with modern-day birds. Its description of the mechanisms of evolution is clear and readable.
I particularly like the book's description of the process of discovery. The author explains the work of biologists, geologists, and paleontologists, showing that our understanding advanced only when scientists from these three disciplines began sharing their knowledge. For example, scientists realized that dinosaurs were the ancestors of modern birds when they integrated the biological, geological, and paleontological evidence. Throughout the book the author emphasizes survival and the concept of natural selection. He links the traits of speed, strength, and the ability to hide with the ability to survive. He also discusses climatic and environmental factors, showing how certain dinosaur traits allowed some species to survive longer than others. The book gives information in straightforward terms and includes illustrations that clarify the concepts (for example, drawings of feathered dinosaurs, as well as the similarities between specific dinosaur and bird skeletons and bird and dinosaur anatomy).
The book highlights scientists such as Linnaeus and Hennig-who developed our scientific classification system-and four others who were key figures in discovering the link between dinosaurs and birds. Although directed to grades 2-4, much of the content is above the conceptual level of most second and third graders. They'll be able to understand the basic facts, but some of the terminology will be difficult. Because this age group is fascinated with dinosaurs, however, they will be drawn to the book's pictures and simple but engaging style. Dinosaurs Alive will be most valuable for grades 4-6 as an easy, captivating complement to a textbook unit on evolution and the process of discovery. I strongly recommend it.