Jake's Bones by Jake McGowan-Lowe
|Jake's Bones by Jake McGowan-Lowe|
|Category: Children's Non-Fiction|
|Reviewer: Margaret Young|
|Summary: This isn't a book for every child, but for the budding palaeontologist, biologist - children who apply the same curiosity about how things work to living things as machines or boys who just enjoy the shock value of looking at skeletons, this is an absolute must have.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 64||Date: February 2014|
|External links: Author's website|
My oldest son has wanted to be a palaeontologist since he was three and both boys are fascinated by how things work. Last year my youngest saw some scientific anatomy drawings and begged for more, so I began looking for children's books on skeletons, and anatomy. There are very few available and this looked the best by far, I spent two days searching not only British but American booksellers before noticing that the book had not been released yet - so sadly we were forced to wait. It was worth waiting for though, this book is truly one of a kind.
Jake's Bones is unique on several fronts, the first and most surprising is the age of the author. Jake McGowan-Lowe is 12 years old. I don't know how much help he had on this book, because the writing is very professional, and we are famous for spotting mistakes, in fact my son has a blog on publishing blunders, but this is flawless. Of course a good editor could have caught any major errors, but the entire flow to this book is exceptional. Is very well detailed, with plenty of scientific information, written in such a manner that is very easily absorbed and understood even by very young children. My sons are ages five and eight and it is difficult to say who enjoyed this book more, or got the most from it. To be honest I was fascinated myself. If young Jake decides to write any more books, we will be among the first to buy them.
Jake tells us he has been collecting bones since the age of six, of course many in his collection are of common British animals, such as deer, foxes and a hedgehog. Jake collection includes a much wider variety than he could find in Scotland though, with several specimens being bought online or given to him from around the world. He has such unusual animals as a crocodile, a leopard, and a monkey. In addition to Jake's very impressive collection, a few museum pieces such as dinosaurs are included as well as the skeleton of a blue whale at Fuerteventura, Spain. I will also assume the human skull and skeleton used to illustrate similarities between our bones and those of animals are also either replicas or museum pieces.
I think the mix of Jake's own collection and museum pieces was perfect. There were enough pieces he had collected himself to encourage children in their own collections, but a few exceptional pieces to keep the book interesting. I have to admit, even though we knew this book was about animals, not dinosaurs, I'd have been a little bit disappointed if he hadn't included something. Although this section is short, it is exceptionally well detailed, explaining the different types of fossils, the similarities between dinosaurs and birds, what palaeontologists do and much more.
The book is laid out in two page spreads, and in many ways is very similar to the DK books, but in an even more child friendly format. Some pages include general information, such as collecting bones in the field, the rules for collectors such as making sure no living animal is harmed and a wonderful comparison of different types of skeletons grouped into carnivores, grazers, gnawers and insectivores. This shows us how much we can learn about living animals, or extinct ones by their skull and teeth. The majority of the book consists of two page spreads of a single animal, giving details about what we can learn from the bones, with a photograph of what the living animal looks like and a wonderful world map showing where these animals live.
Jake's Bones won't be for every child. Some children are certain to be either upset or grossed out by the sight of so many dead animal skeletons. My sons are very sensitive when it comes to animals, but once I told them no animal was harmed to make this book they were fine with it. They accept that things die, and this is a part of nature. There are no pictures of dead animals with any flesh attached. I had a quick look through before showing this to the children as the sight of animal that had obviously died a very traumatic death might have disturbed them. All the dead things you see will be bones only - most cleaned and polished. I would also note there are no photos of anything partially decomposed. I doubt this would have bothered my children, but it might have turned me.
I can't think of a single negative about this book. This is one of the best children's science books I have ever come across. It teaches so much about anatomy, nature and modern animals, but it is an absolute must have for children with an interest in palaeontology. So many theories on dinosaurs are based on living animals as there is so much we can never know. Just as Jake classified his skulls by diet, so do palaeontologists classify the fossils they find. They use clues from modern animals to fill in all the missing pieces. The most fascinating section by far for us was a small bone called a syrinx found with duck bones. We had no idea what this was, but even Jake had to take it to a museum to identify. It turns out that this bone allows ducks to quack. We had quite a discussion as to what palaeontologists would make of something like this, especially if ducks were extinct.
Jakes Bones has earned a unanimous five star vote from every member of our family. As a home educator, I can not recommend it highly enough, and I will be passing it around at the next home education meeting. But as a parent I would recommend it even more strongly. This is the type of book that makes science fun. It is every bit as entertaining as it educational. The fact that the author is so young adds even more value to it. I think this book will encourage other children to try their hand at writing, start collections, and discover the joy of discovery. My boys also give this a very hearty recommendation - but not because it is educational, because it is really cool, brilliant and fun as well.
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You can read more book reviews or buy Jake's Bones by Jake McGowan-Lowe at Amazon.com.
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