The Clues Are in the Poo

The Clues are in the Poo

For someone who proclaimed her avoidance of all things gross, here I am back for a second week writing about just that. This time it’s “poo,” dinosaur poo.

To be more precise, it’s a book about the study of coprolites, defined by the UK’s Natural History Museum as “the fossilised faeces of animals that lived millions of years ago. They are trace fossils, meaning not of the animal’s actual body.”

I find this book fascinating three times over. Now I know what can be learned about our planet thousands of years ago by studying what they pooped out. I learned a good deal about a cool scientist, Karen Chin, who studies the insects and fauna found in the coprolites. And this is a wonderful read-aloud because Jane Kurtz is such a skilled writer.

Reading this sentence out loud to a roomful of people will have them hooked: “Billions of dinosaurs once raced and sauntered and stomped and thumped around the earth.” Sauntered? I’ve never imagined a dinosaur sauntering but doesn’t it make you think? That’s a great choice of words to stir the imagination.

The repeated use of the phrase “not yet,” even near the end of the book, builds suspense and adds to the irresistibility of this true story.

illustration from The Clues are in the Poo
illustration © Francisco Riolobos, from The Clues are in the Poo: The Story of Dinosaur Scientist Karen Chin, written by Jane Kurtz, published by Reycraft 2023

Riolobos’ illustrations are saturated with color, evocative of a lush and verdant planet, and satisfyingly filled with dinosaurs of many types.

The variety of subject matter in his illustrations keeps things humming along, adding to the impetus to turn the pages.

The back matter includes personal notes from scientist Karen Chin. So often, the person highlighted in a book is no longer living, so it’s a treat to hear from the vital and active scientist herself.

For those of you who are interested in Tuskegee Airmen, Karen Chin’s father flew with that honored group of black aviator pilots who flew in the US Army Air Corps before becoming a scientist himself.

Don’t miss the Science Friday video, “Discovering the Past through Dino Poop,” on Jane Kurtz’s website.

Finding out what we want to do is a journey, the path wandering, but it pays off when we find our passion. For scientist Karen Chin, she tried out many interesting jobs that led her to her passion … studying dinosaur poop.

The Clues Are in the Poo: The Story of
Dinosaur Scientist
Karen Chin
written by Jane Kurtz and Karen Chin
illustrated by Francisco Riolobos
Reycraft Books, 2023
suggested for ages 7 and older
ISBN 978-1478876182

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