Dinosaurs are a perennial favorite amongst preschool and early grade school children. The fascination with incredibly large reptiles remains constant regardless of what other fads modern children may fall in or out of. To that end, our library has many, many books on dinosaurs, from books focusing on a single animal to broader books looking at several different types. Boy, Were We Wrong About Dinosaurs takes a unique approach: Instead of approaching the topic from a descriptive “this is what we think they were like” standpoint, it focuses on “this is WHY we think this, and this is the way our thinking has changed with new information.” Read one way, it’s about dinosaurs and cool dinosaur facts. Read another way, it’s a child-sized textbook on the scientific process.
The book begins with a discussion of how ancient dinosaur bone findings were initially believed to be dragon bones, then announces that many of the “scientific” beliefs were equally as misguided. One of the best things about the approach is that the author never implies that the old beliefs were stupid or laughably incorrect. In a few concise sentences on one page, it is explained why we thought, for example, that all dinosaurs had legs pointing to the side like a lizard, then on the opposite page is given the new evidence and extrapolated thinking that leads us to believe dinosaur legs were more like horse or deer, under the bodies. The book ends with the fact that there are still many aspects of dinosaur knowledge that are still unknown, and that the reader may well grow up to discover something that will make the rest of the world rethink what we know about the subject.
One of the downfalls of teaching science to children is that books often want to sound informative and knowledgeable. Coming out and saying “a lot of science is still only theories, and a lot of what we “know” changes drastically over time” can be a little scary. It is refreshing to see a book that not only is willing to admit that there’s a lot we don’t know, and that we’ve made a lot of mistakes in the past, but revels in it, letting children become aware that while we already know a lot, there is much, much more still to discover.