Friday, April 5, 2013

Book Review - Figuring Out Fossils

Figuring Out Fossils: Searchlight Books - Do You Dig Earth Science?

By: Sally M. Walker
Publisher: Lerner Publications
Publication Date: January 2013
ISBN: 978-1467700191
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: April 2013

If you’ve ever seen fossils in a museum, you may not be aware that they are the “traces and remains of plants and animals that lived more than ten thousand years ago.” There are several different kinds of fossils, including those from dinosaurs (bones and teeth) and very unusual ones made from “claws, eggs, and nests.” There are even ones made from insect body parts. Exciting and interesting ones that can be seen outside are giant dinosaur tracks that look as if a dino walked right through rock. Trails of smaller animals such as snails or worms can “show where an animal went.” Some ancient fossils such as the imprint of a leaf can easily be identified.

It’s obvious that a dinosaur didn’t walk though a rock or a rock just happened to look like a leaf. Just how were these fossils created? They are “plant and animal remains that have been naturally preserved.” Most remains simply disappear because they rot, but some become buried and protected. There they are safe from animals and things like water and rain. Some fossils can be protected by ice because it “preserves plants and animals very well.” The La Brea Tar Pits in California are “full of asphalt,” which will preserve “hard body parts.” You’ll see some very unusual discoveries from these pits.

Sediments, or “bits of mud, sand, stone, shell, or bone” also help preserve fossils. Many people like to try to find fossils underneath them. Over long periods of time chemicals and the weight of the sediments turn plant or animal remains into fossils. It seems unusual that bones can actually turn into stone, but they can and do. Wood can also turn into fossils, something you may have seen. Some shells act as molds, creating yet another kind of fossil. You’ll also learn about where people and scientists look for fossils, what a paleontologist is, how fossils are removed from rock, how they are safely moved, what we can learn from fossils, and you’ll learn many other fascinating things about ancient fossils.

This is a fascinating book about fossils and what they tell us. The layout of the book is vibrant with full-color photographs and illustrations that show us examples of what they are. Many of the captions add additional information the young student can think about. For example, when discussing small fossils we learn that “The smallest fossils are very hard to see. Paleontologists use microscopes to study them.” This is a beginning nonfiction book that the confident or newly independent reader should be able to tackle with a minimum of assistance. In the back of the book is an index, a glossary, and recommended book and website resources to explore. There are additional free, complementary educational resources that can be downloaded on the publisher’s website.

Quill says: The "Do You Dig Earth Science" series is an excellent introductory series for beginning nonfiction students.