About the Holiday
Did you know that some fossils date back to 4.1 BILLION years ago? Just think of that the next time you’re feeling a little bit old (or so recommends the website National Today). Today we celebrate National Fossil Day to recognize the importance (and, well, awesomeness) of paleontologists, geologists, and fossils in providing us with information on the history of our earth and those who have inhabited it before us. National Today provides some further information, with a timeline of fossil history, and fun facts like this one: The highest amount ever paid for a dinosaur fossil was $8.3 million (they named it “Sue”).
To celebrate National Fossil Day, check out National parks near you, learn more about fossils, do something to help protect the earth, read some books about evolution—like Chicken Frank, Dinosaur!—or visit the National Parks page for more information and resources on how to celebrate our geologic heritage.
Thanks to Albert Whitman & Company for sharing a copy of Chicken Frank, Dinosaur! with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.
Review by Dorothy Levine
Chicken Frank, Dinosaur!
Written by S.K. Wenger | Illustrated by Jojo Ensslin
If you ask Chicken Frank he’ll tell you, “I’m a dinosaur! Cluckity-roar!” But the other barnyard animals aren’t so sure. Everyone is puzzled by this evolution thing Frank keeps talking about (“Evo-what?”). Chicken Frank tries to explain, “Evolution! Change! Change happens over time so we can survive.” He takes a stick and draws lines of lineage, connecting crocodiles to plant-eating dinosaurs and eventually birds. “From a dinosaur. See?” But the other animals don’t see it: “I see a chicken who was a chicken five minutes ago,” a sheep says. “I see a chicken who’s been a chicken since he hatched,” a pig chimes in.
Chicken Frank then presents different types of evidence to try to convince the farm that birds evolved from dinosaurs. He points out his feet look like those of T. rexes, to which another chicken looks at the readers and says, “More like T. crazy.” Frank explains that feathers evolved from dinosaur scales, and that both dinos and chickens had little tails when they were embryos. Other animals start wondering if they come from dinosaurs, since they have tails too. So, in a last straw attempt, Chicken Frank returns to his mud lineage map once more.
He shows how fish, amphibians, reptiles and mammals come from different branches in the evolutionary tree. Birds, however, branch off from reptiles. Nobody is convinced, and pig, sheep, and horse turn their attention to pretending to be unicorns with carrot horns instead. But then, the results from Frank’s DNA test arrive. The data shows Chicken Frank has a reptilian cousin: Crocodile Ike.
Chicken Frank decides to send a post card to his cousin Ike inviting him to come for a family reunion, much to the dismay of everyone. A crocodile and a chicken in the same place? Seems like a recipe for disaster…and maybe some chicken franks too. And while Crocodile Ike and his mom are first tempted to gobble Frank up, they take some time and study his charts. And, to everyone’s surprise, they get it! “One of us isn’t a dinosaur… But we’re both Archosaurs! KINGS of the dinosaurs! Roar!” Ike tells Frank. Ike’s mom wonders who else they may be related to, so Frank starts a letter to an even further distant cousin—the sharks!
They all decide to take a trip to the aquarium, where the pig, sheep, and horse are delighted to find “a swimming unicorn!” (a narwhal), and Crocodile Ike exclaims, “family!” Chicken Frank happily agrees and adds, “Ours is the very best.”
The story is followed by five informational sections: “What Is DNA?”, “What Is Evolution?”, “Is Chicken Frank Really Related to T. rex?” “Similarities Between Dinosaurs, Chickens, and Alligators”, and “Frank’s Glossary of Favorite Animal Groups” Each of these sections provide in-depth scientific explanations for those who want to know a bit more about how it all works. S. K. Wenger masterfully explains each of these concepts at an advanced level that is clear to read and understand for readers of a wide range of age and abilities.
A joyous read, with important concepts about evolution scattered in with the fun. This comic-style picture book will have kids laughing out loud at the farm animals’ speech bubble puns and jokes. S. K. Wenger (and Chicken Frank) explain concepts of evolution in easily digestible terms for readers of all ages. The story is quick-paced and intriguing, with distinct characters and a quirky humor. A must-read for all kids, especially those with a fondness for dinosaurs.
The story would not be nearly as fun or educational without Jojo Ensslin’s colorful, cartoon-like drawings. As Chicken Frank explains his evolutionary reasoning, Ensslin depicts the ideas clearly and closely juxtaposed. For example, when Frank talks about how his feet match those of a T. rex, kids see both feet on the same page. Likewise, a scaled dinosaur and an ancient bird are portrayed on the same blackboard.
Later, when Ike receives the postcard from Frank in a muddy swamp, swarming with crocodiles, and calls out, “Does anyone know a cousin named Frank?” little speech bubbles with “Nope!” scatter the swamp, prompting kids to join in. In a carved-out corner, a close-up view of Ike and his mom show their evil plans to crash the reunion with some chompers. The facial expressions of each of the animals add to their characters and the humor of the story. Many carefully placed illustrative details add to the plot in meaningful and silly ways, such as, the DNA Test Kit shown the page before the story begins and the large bone Chicken Frank stores in his coop; the illustrations and text come together to create a read-aloud that is enjoyable to all.
Creative nonfiction at its best, Chicken Frank, Dinosaur! is both a hilarious story and a highly engaging way to explain evolutionary science in a way kids will respond to and remember. Sure to spark an interest in further science learning, the book is highly recommended for home bookshelves and a must for school and public library collections.
Ages 4 – 7
Albert Whitman & Company, 2021 | ISBN 978-0807511411
Discover more about S. K. Wenger and her books on her website.
To learn more about Jojo Ensslin and view a portfolio of his illustration, animation, and woodcout work, visit his website.
National Fossil Day ActivityDinosaur Coloring Pages
Enjoy these four dinosaur coloring pages from the National Park Service’s free prehistoric coloring book in honor of National Fossil Day!
For more, you can download the whole coloring book from the National Park Service here.
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