About the Holiday
Today, we celebrate dinosaurs—those beasts that, although they are of a distant past, remain ever present in our hearts. Their size, diversity, and shear awesomeness make them a favorite of kids, and ongoing discoveries continue to fascinate adults as well. To celebrate, visit a national history museum, watch your favorite dinosaur movies or TV shows, join your kids in playing with their dinos (you know you want to!), and pick up today’s book!
Jack Horner, Dinosaur Hunter!
Written by Sophia Gholz | Illustrated by Dave Shephard
Growing up in Montana, Jack Horner was lulled to sleep by the “crunch, swoosh. Crunch, swoosh” of his father’s gravel business, and as soon as he was big enough to hold a shovel, he began digging. He loved being outdoors, searching for dinosaur bones. He dreamed of being a paleontologist when he grew up. His digging usually only produced rocks, sticks, and dirt, but once he “spied a peculiar rock” and when he had carefully swept the sand aside, he discovered a clamshell. His first fossil find made him look at his backyard differently – as “an ocean covering the land millions of years ago–an ocean filled with ancient beasts.” Jack wanted to find more fossils.
Jack taught himself how to “search for clues among the rocks: irregular textures, colors, and shapes.” He found lots of fossilized shells, but he really wanted to find a dinosaur. He went fossil hunting “in the woods and near the mountains.” Then one day while hiking up a cliff, Jack saw “an odd rock nestled in the ground.” With his tools he brushed the sand aside and uncovered the skeleton of a duck-billed dinosaur.
While Jack was quickly becoming an expert on fossils and the landscapes that hid them, he struggled with reading in school. His teachers told him that if his grades didn’t improve, he’d never be able to become a paleontologist. He took to experimenting in his basement, winning awards for his science projects even as he was failing his classes. One prestigious university, however, did admit Jack on the strength of one impressive project, but just as before Jack was unable to keep up in class. He dropped out and was drafted soon after to join the Vietnam War.
Here, he decided that when he got home, he would try to work closely with paleontologists, if he couldn’t actually be one himself. He was hired by Princeton University’s natural history museum, where he “assembled and cataloged exhibit, working closely with scientists.” His colleagues recognized that Jack was an “expert at reading fossils.” He got a promotion that allowed him to work in the field.
It was during one of these trips into cliffs that Jack “spied something odd. Heart thumping like the tail of an Ankylosaurus, he leapt into action.” When Jack swept the sand away, he and his team discovered a nest of fossilized dinosaur eggs – the first such find in North America. Jack went on to find more fossilized eggs, “proving dinosaurs nested in colonies;” name a new dinosaur species; and become an expert on dinosaur behavior and social structure. He even shared his special expertise when a famous movie producer filmed one of his great blockbusters. Jack had succeeded in his dream to be a “world-famous paleontologist.”
Back matter includes an Author’s Note, more about Jack Horner’s life, and a Dino Lab, that invites readers to design their own dinosaur and provides mix-and-match Greek and Latin words to help kids name their dino.
Dinosaur lovers and anyone with dino-sized dreams will be instantly hooked by Sophia Gholz’s immersive biography of Jack Horner, who forged his own path to becoming one of the world’s most influential paleontologists. His self-confidence, unstoppable drive, and ultimate success will inspire all readers to define themselves by what they can do – not by what they may struggle with – and to trust their instincts on the way to achieving their goals. Gholz tells Jack’s story clearly and with the kind of repeated phrasing that builds suspense while also replicating the types of life experiences that create expertise.
Dave Shephard’s bold illustrations will enthrall kids as they join Jack in the cliffs of Montana to brush away the sand from a duck-billed dinosaur fossil, see the underground strata where fossils lurk, and discover the nest of fossilized eggs. Shephard also depicts Jack’s struggles in school, where his undiagnosed dyslexia causes words and equations to become a jumbled stumbling block to his education. The vibrant format with clear typography will appeal to fans of graphic novels as well as to reluctant readers.
Jack Horner, Dinosaur Hunter! is an exceptional biography of a boy and man who never gave up on finding a way to accomplish his goal. The book will captivate children on its own or as an introduction to a wide range of classroom lessons and is highly recommended for all home, classroom, and public library collections.
Ages 6 – 9
Sleeping Bear Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1534111196
Discover more about Sophia Gholz and her books on her website.
To learn more about Dave Shephard, his books, and his art, visit his website.
National Dinosaur Day Activity
Searching for Dinosaurs Puzzle
Hunt for 16 types of dinosaurs in this printable puzzle!
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