READ ME: The Arkansas Sisters’ Book “Little Bit of Dinosaur!” wins 2 prizes
“A little dinosaur!” written by Elleen Hutcheson and Darcy Pattison, illustrated by John Joven (Mims House, February 2021), ages 5-9, 32 pages, $ 23.99 hardcover, $ 11.99 paperback, $ 5.99 ebook, 5, $ 99 audiobook.
Arkansas sisters Elleen Hutcheson and Darcy Pattison paired their talents with John Joven’s offhand and angular illustrations for an exuberant picture book that offers lessons in science, nutrition, and mortality.
The information is clear and bold, and the artwork flips, surprising us with the story of how the minerals that once formed the Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton could become part of the reader’s body.
We see a large dinosaur that happily rises and dies – tongue out, visited by dead flies, with X’s for its eyes. Mud buries its bones and geological features create the Rocky Mountains.
Erosion slowly uncovers the fossilized toe bone of T. rex until a dumbfounded-looking calcium atom dissolves from the fossils and into the Arkansas River. The river propels the atom to the Mississippi River through Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma until an agricultural pump sucks the atom with water from the river to irrigate an Arkansan cornfield .
The farmer (and his cow) happily harvest the corn, and the cow eats the corn. Her body uses this little calcium to make milk.
We see the farmer hand-delivering a wooden milk barrel to a dairy, where a masked milkman with jerky limbs sends it through a four-station process that results in cheese wheels. A truck driver delivers the cheese, and Mom buys it from a merchant with a strange nose and beard.
Mom gives her child a cheese sandwich (who represents us) and we see pictures of other funny dinosaurs that might be hiding in our bones.
And then comes the best part: we happily die and are buried. I love the tuft of gray hair on our skeleton. Calcium also escapes from our bones. The book ends with the lively reflection that, perhaps, the calcium in our bones will be part of a whale.
Hutcheson taught high school science at Rogers for decades, winning a Christa McAuliffe scholarship to Arkansas and also a Fulbright Memorial Fund scholarship to study in Japan. According to a press release, she has traveled the world, studying nature and science in Costa Rica, the Amazon rainforest and the Galapagos Islands.
Her sister Pattison is a well-known and award-winning children’s author and writing teacher, with dozens of fictional and non-fiction picture books and numerous novels. Five of his books have been honored by the National Science Teacher’s Association as Outstanding Business Books, and one has been reprinted in a textbook by Houghton Mifflin. She has an Irma Black Honor award, an Eureka! Non-fictional Honor Book, two selections from the Junior Library Guild and two notable books from the National Council of English Teachers. She was a recipient of the 2007 Arkansas Governor’s Arts Awards for her work in children’s literature.
The Arkansas Reading Association recently gave away “A Little Bit of Dinosaur!” its 2021 Arkansiana Award for its significant contribution to Arkansas culture and heritage, and the California Reading Association included it in the 2021 Eureka! Non-fiction honors.
And it’s fun to watch and to share.
Read to Me is a weekly review of short books for young people.