The Discovery and Mystery of a Dinosaur Named Jane
by Judith Williams

Price at time of review: $23.93
48 pp.
Enslow Publishers, Inc.
Berkeley Heights, NJ
ISBN: 9780766027305

Grade Level: 3-4

Reviewed by Linda Schoen-Giddings
Science Consultant - SCDoE

When I picked up this book, I expected a fictional account of an anthropomorphic dinosaur named “Jane.” Was I ever wrong! This book, an NSTA/CBC Outstanding Science Trade Book for 2008, is a wonderful, nonfiction account of the real-life exploration, excavation, and investigation of a group of scientists who discovered dinosaur bones in Hell Creek, Montana. Students will get a true sense of the nature of science by reading about the work, dedication, and efforts of the scientists who are searching for new discoveries and understandings.

The discovery of the dinosaur bones is only the beginning of the story of true scientific inquiry – questioning and seeking answers from the presented evidence. Through the arduous task of recovering and restoring the bones, students get a greater appreciation of how scientific discoveries are made. The scientists then have to classify their dinosaur, and the book fully emphasizes the questioning, research, and collaboration of the scientists involved.

This is real science, clearly written and well-illustrated. It reinforces the belief that science is a process for evaluating empirical knowledge about the world, not just the accretion of factoids. It provides teachers with the opportunity to catch that “teachable moment” about the nature of science---how knowledge and theory must be based on observable phenomena and capable of being tested for its validity by other scientists, a concept most students don’t encounter in science classes.

I recommend this book for upper elementary grades or early middle school, especially for less capable readers. Because dinosaurs are most always an engaging topic, students will come to realize the importance of scientific inquiry while reading an exciting story of discovery. What I also learned is that most paleontologists name their dinosaur discoveries… ergo “Jane.”

Review posted on 5/11/2007

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