by Tracey Fern
illustrated by Boris Kulikov
Margaret Ferguson Books, Farrar Straus Giroux | May 22, 2012
Well-designed and fancifully illustrated, this picturebook biography of Barnum Brown, who had discovered most every dinosaur bone in the American Museum of Natural History’s collection at the time of his death in 1963, offers both information and a good narrative.
Brown, whose life details are somewhat fuzzy, was a bit of a character: filling his childhood home with collected fossils, dubbing his intimidating boss “My Dear Professor,” dressing formally in the field, and nicknaming his most famous find, the Tyrannosaurus Rex, his “favorite child.”
With only this book as reference, it could appear Brown worked largely alone, often only accompanied by a horse and occasional by a crew who are mentioned but never shown digging with him. Even allowing for text that seems, at times, too amazing to be true, this quirky unknown story about a paleontologist who learned by doing is appealing.
Double spreads with maps depicting travels and adventures, interesting perspectives (such as of Brown, giant in the foreground while being attacked by mosquitoes), and huge “hidden” outlines of well-known dinosaur shapes give even the smallest readers something to search for, much like Brown searched his entire life. Appended with brief author’s note, selected biography, and archival photograph of Brown.