November 8, 2001
Jigsaw Dinosaurs is a non-fiction book as well as a childs toy under one hard cover. The non-fiction aspect of it offers some introductory detail on the physical appearance and social behavior of six different dinosaurs: Allosaurus, Stegosaurus, Diplodocus, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Triceratops and Oviraptor. These are presented on each left-hand page along with information inserts about some of the smaller dinosaurs: Ornitholestes, Lesothosaurus, Compsognathus, Protoceratops, Velociraptors and Quetzalcoatlus. To complete the left-hand page is a ‘stone-age’ information rock sign, on each page, offering a little-known dinosaur fact under the title: Did you know?
The toy aspect of it involves six different jigsaw puzzles elaborating on the main dinosaur being discussed on the left-hand page. The puzzles, illustrated by Anne Sharp, fully occupy each right page in the book. These puzzles make learning for the younger children easier, and more fun because of the clear simplicity of them.
The last double page of the book is an illustrated time line following the common dinosaurs through the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. This sums up the dinosaur period quite nicely.
The illustrations are colored in highly appealing blue and green, red and yellow, purple and orange. The colors are moody, evoking the eeriness of the Mesozoic period. The illustrations fit the large text nicely so if this is being read aloud children will be able to follow lovely detail in the illustration, which will assist with gaining memory retention. Children will be able to track dinosaurs mentioned in text on one page, in illustrations on another: another fun game for dinosaur recognition.
There is a nice sense of action about the illustrations, which is also reflected in the text. For example, the text asks: “Do you think the Struthiomimus will see the T Rex in time?” and Anne Sharp draws a distracted Struthiomimus and a T Rex ready to pounce. Very effectively. These could be used as hypothetical scenarios to encourage young kids to create their own imaginative plots to fit the illustration and the text question: Do you think… And what will happen next…? As there is no definitive ending supplied. So, this book offers some great catalysts for developing creative thinking in children. And even on re-reading, children could be encouraged to offer different responses, and even dramatize the very scenarios they create, further intensifying their pleasure in what they have read here.
There are strong and weak points associated with having a book that is also a puzzle. One of the strengths is that children can use this either as a storybook or an activity puzzle, depending on their mood. Also, returning puzzle pieces to each correct location will appeal to many ordered kids, and can be used as a tool to assist kids to take care, to look after their puzzle pieces by keeping them neatly in the book. Another strength is that six kids could be using this as a puzzle apiece. One of the weak points of such a book and puzzle combination is that once the puzzle pieces start being lost the book may lose much of its appeal to children. The puzzle is what makes the learning so fun. Another is that if a puzzle is completed out of its book puzzle-frame someone still has to make the effort to return the entire puzzle to the book if the puzzle pieces are to be saved for as long as possible.
Still, for kindergarten or preschool groups, or for individual children at home, there are many appealing features that should keep kids involved, enthralled, and better still, returning to this book again and again. Anne Sharpe’s delightful illustrations are not the least of them. This combination piece is brilliant because it offers many play features along with subtle educational features.
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