The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins by Barbara Kerley; Illustrated by Brian Selznick.
Teacher read aloud: Grades 1-6; Publisher PK-5; Booklist Grades 3-5; AR Interest Level LG; Independent Reading AR 5.0; Lexile AD550L.
Text Structure/Genre: Biography; Narrative non-fiction.
High-Quality Text and Illustrations: Caldecott Honor Book 2002; ALA Notable Children’s Books 2002; Booklist starred.
LC Summary: The true story of Victorian artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, who built life-sized models of dinosaurs in the hope of educating the world about what these awe-inspiring ancient animals were like.
Why should I teach with this book? Picture book non-fiction doesn’t get much better than this: In topic, content, and artistic quality, this non-fiction narrative book is simply one of the best there is.
What Common Core Standards can I teach with this book? NOTE: At the end of this post, look for the red CCS icon I created to indicate for in-depth lesson correlation. CCR RL 7 | CCR RI 6 | CCR RI 7
Read Aloud Guidelines: Suggested questions or points to discuss briefly when reading aloud to increase the students’ comprehension of the text. Buddy up the students in groups of 2 or 3 to give them someone with whom they can discuss their ideas at various points in the read aloud.
Endpapers through title page (title/author/illustrator): Discuss the illustrations and information. You will want to skip over the detailed acknowledgments on the verso until another time. What effect is the illustrator giving to the story? Besides being appropriately Victorian, the setting is as if the opening of a magic or theatrical stage show. At the end of the book, discuss why B. Selznick would pair this technical setting with the story of Waterhouse Hawkins. He probably is emphasizing that these hard-to-image, fantastical creatures were real even though they seemed astonishing, or at least they were the best guess at the time of how the dinosaurs might have looked. CCR RL 4 | RL 7 | RI 7
Text on page begins: Horse-drawn carriages clattered down the streets. . . Continue reading through the page that begins with. . . Now Waterhouse was busy with a most exciting project. . . Clarify with students, what is the non-fiction aspect of this story and what is the fictitious part? Horse-drawn carriages, children in streets, meeting with people would have been true; what he was thinking there would be no way of knowing unless he wrote the story or left a record of a specific incident. The facts of his life are true–artist; sculpture; helping Richard Owen; and creating dinosaurs for The Crystal Palace. CCS RI 6
Text on page begins: Waterhouse threw open the doors to his workshop. Nervously. . . Check for understanding of the word: violà–French, literally, see there, used to draw attention to something to express satisfaction or approval, or to suggest an appearance as if by magic. CCS RL 4
Text on page begins: Designing the creatures was only the first step. . . Draw attention to the amount of work involved in creating the models and to the step-by-step sequence involved.
Check for understanding of the word: eminent–successful, well-known and respected. CCS RL 4
Text on page begins: In the weeks that followed, Waterhouse basked in the glow. . . Check for understanding: basked–to enjoy the attention and good feelings expressed by others. CCS RL 4
Text on page begins: When the guests arrived, they gasped with delight! Check for meaning “course after course”–a dish, or a set of dishes served together, forming one of the successive parts of a meal. CCR RI 7
Text on page begins: The next months passed by in concrete, stone, and iron. . . Note that the “Forty thousand spectators” who attended is just a little under the size of the entire population of Glenview, IL.
Text on page begins: Then disaster struck. William “Boss” Tweed. . . Check for the students’ understanding of: thwart–prevent (someone) from accomplishing something.
Text on page begins: Waterhouse stumbled outside, only to find mounds of dirt and dinosaur rubble. . . The illustration show him stumbling away in a dark rainstorm. When reading aloud, or at the end of the story, ask the students how the illustration communicates the mood and is symbolic, rather than a non-fiction representation, of what is happening in the story. The “dark cloud” is often used to communicate sadness and the cold rain gives the feeling of pain, an uncomfortable and barely tolerable situation that someone would want to flee from.
Endpapers. . . Spend time examining the endpapers with the students especially the menu for the dinner hosted by Waterhouse and given for the eminent scientists invited to see his first model, the iguanodon.
Instruction at the Conclusion of the Read-Aloud. Look for my extra-info icon: At the end of the story, depending on time discuss other items mentioned in the book to build the students’ background knowledge:
Geography: Clarify where London is; where Sydeham Park is relative to London; and exactly what country London is in, e.g., the UK which includes Great Britain, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. This Infographic is a good visual to use with the students or . Also, this YouTube video provides a complete explanation, however, the creator, who is the narrator, speaks so rapidly the video may not be useable for the classroom but is great for teacher background information. (Note: In 2014, Scotland will be voting as to whether or not the country will be independent from the UK.)
Depiction of passage of time: Discuss how the illustrator shows the passage of time in the 2-page illustration that begins with “Just as he had hoped, his models were the start of something wonderful. . .” Note the sepia color in the first drawing like the sepia colored photographs of the 1800s and of course, the change in dress styles. It seems to me that the people look short and squat, however, is that because the dinosaur sculptures are so large? Did Selznick downsize the proportions of the people to make the dinosaurs be large and looming? Note that Brian Selznick says that when he was viewing the dinosaurs in the park, a goose bit him so he included the goose in the illustration!
Building historical content knowledge: Although Queen Victoria is usually portrayed as she was when older, in 1854 she was years old. Here is a photo of her with her husband and children and here she is in a portrait she had done as a gift for her husband, Albert.
CCS RI 1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text. Analyze how a particular sentence, paragraph, chapter, or section fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the ideas. Hawkins is acknowledged to have had a “lasting influence in paleontology.” Looking at the text of the book, have the students find evidence that Hawkins work was remarkable and had the potential to have a lasting influence.
Divide the students into teams of 2-3 with each student having their own copy of the text. (Email me to request a file of the text only at: libraries_rule (at) yahoo.com.)
Assign students part 1, part 2, or part 3 and have them put brackets around phrases of text that provide evidence to support the idea that Hawkins work was remarkable. You may want to model a paragraph before the students begin to work. When done, discuss the answers found by the groups. Have the students do their work in pencil but correct in pen and/or highlighters to help you assess their skill before and after the activity.
CCS L 5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings. Divide the students into teams of 2-3 with each student having their own copy of the text. (Email me to request a file of the text only at: libraries_rule (at) yahoo.com.) Assign students part 1, part 2, or part 3 and have them look for: active verbs; interesting words; and/or interesting patterns of language. Or, look at the pages and discuss each together. Discuss as a group what ordinary words could have been used that would not have had the same impact on the reader. Here are some examples:
Text on page begins: Horse-drawn carriages. . . Strong verbs include: clattered; tipped; ducked and dodged; hurried.
Text on page begins: Now Waterhouse was busy with a most exciting project. . . Strong verbs include: prowl, studies, compared, create, gaze. Interesting word choices: “Scientists weren’t sure either, for the only fossils were some bits and pieces–a tooth here, a bone there.”
Text on page begins: In the weeks that followed, Waterhouse basked in the glow. Author’s craft: What feeling is created by how the author wrote this paragraph–The iguanodon mold was hauled outside. A platform was built. A tent erected. Instead of using “and” in-between each phrase, the short sentences give the feeling of action and builds excitement.
Text on page begins: Designing the creatures was only the first step. . . Interesting word choices: “Waterhouse showed his guests the small models he’d made. . . from scales on the nose to nails on the toes.” Point out the quotations around what Waterhouse said. It means that it is taken directly from Waterhouse (is there a reference in the book?Check for understanding of the word: eminent–successful, well-known and respected if not pointed out during read aloud.
Text on page begins: When the guests arrived, they gasped with delight! Discuss the uses of a colon here. Twice it is used to indicate a list. Once it is use for emphasis.
Text on page begins: The next months passed by in concrete, stone, and iron. . . Strong verbs include: mingled, boomed, swelled, gasped, shrieked. Check for understanding of the words regal and dignitaries.