Why are there not zillions more non-fiction books like Triassic Terrors by Isaac Lenkiewicz (@isaaclenkiewicz) and Nick Crumpton (@LSmonster)? Not only is this fact-filled, amazing activity book effortlessly educational and gorgeously and sophisticatedly produced, it also brilliantly feeds and encourages both curiosity and creativity.
Focussing on dinosaurs which rarely get a mention elsewhere (Jurassic and Cretaceous dinos such as the diplodocus or the velociraptor have tended to hog the limelight when it comes to books and films) and through a series of activities including a board game, dot-to-dots, colouring in, drawing tutorials and quizzes, Triassic Terrors makes learning enormous fun. Starting with an overview of geological periods and how to distinguish dinosaurs from other prehistoric animals, before focussing on specific dinosaurs from this early period, this book is suitable both for (7+) dino-mad children, and those who are less able to reel off strings of multisyllabic terrible lizard names.
The earthy toned illustrations are very inviting, whilst the thick paper and textured cover (it feels a little like I imagine dinosaur skin might have felt!) make this a book you and your kids will want to hold (to say nothing about stroking). Indeed, the high quality of the book’s physical production may actually leave you (as an adult) having slight misgivings about the kids cutting pages out, colouring it in and generally engaging with it deeply. But put aside your qualms, for this book – written by a real palaeontologist – is genuinely terrific.
Inspired by a tweet from Francis Hardinge (@FrancesHardinge) who described a cake a friend of hers had baked with embedded edible fossils, we set about creating our own edible dinosaur dig to play with and eat alongside reading and exploring Triassic Terrors.
M made several batches of sponge cake mixture which she dyed different colours.
She poured the mixtures into a large cake tin, and between each layer of cake mixture she added “fossils”: cashew nuts for claws, chocolate covered nuts for coprolites (dino poo), and pine nuts for shark teeth.
Once the cake was cooked, she covered it in green icing (grass) and then brought in her playmobil toys and accessories which could serve as palaeontologists and their equipment.
Slicing through the cake revealed the rock’s stratigraphy i.e. the layering of different colour cake mixes. We were slightly disappointed that the layers weren’t hugely distinct: I guess that convection when cooking caused the layers of cake mixture to mix, so next time, we might instead bake each layer separately and then stack them on top of each other (as we did when we baked a cake like this rainbow cake). This would also ensure that the fossils “stay” in the right layer, rather than sinking to the bottom of the cake as they did with ours.
Even though our cake didn’t work out quite as planned, we had plenty of fun making it, and lots of fun eating it!
Whilst baking and landscaping we listened to:
Other activities which could work well alongside reading Triassic Terrors include:
We never tire of good dinosaur books; which are your favourites? If you ever visit the Natural History Museum in London do look out for The Queen and Mr Brown: A Day for Dinosaurs before you go. Written and illustrated by James Francis Wilkins this is the tale of Her Majesty and on of her corgis visiting the museum. If you’ve ever wanted to see an image of Elizabeth II riding on a Megalosaurus (with a pretty mean look in her eye), this is the book for you!
Disclosure: I received a free review copy of Triassic Terrors from the publishers.