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Dinosaurs Before Dark

Last updated Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Author: Mary Pope Osborne
Date of Publication: 1992
ISBN: 0679924116
Grade Level: 4th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Sep. 2008

Synopsis: From School Library Journal:

This enjoyable time-travel fantasy is a successful beginning chapter book. Jack and his younger sister find a tree house filled with books. When he wishes he could really see the Pteranodon pictured in one of them, it appears at the window. The children have been transported back to the Cretaceous period. They begin to explore and are soon threatened by a Tyrannosaurus. The Pteranodon comes to their rescue, and they figure out enough about the magic that carried them back in time to be able to use it to return home. There is plenty of suspense and magic here, and enough dinosaur information to please science buffs.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Have you read any of the other Magic Tree House Books? Which one is your favorite?
•  What do you know about dinosaurs? Where and when did they live? What did they eat? Are they still alive today? What are some types of dinosaurs?
•  Looking at the cover, what do you think this story will be about?
•  Have you ever seen dinosaur fossils/skeletons in a museum? How about any other kind of fossils or skeletons?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Look at a map and find Pennsylvania. Do you know where PA is? Have you ever visited PA or any of the other 50 states besides CA?
•  Have you ever played in a tree house?
•  Do you think it’s safe for Annie and Jack to go up to the tree house when they don’t know who it belongs to? Is it ok to go into other people’s houses without their permission?
•  What happened with Jack opened the book about dinosaurs? Can this really happen?
•  Jack and Annie travelled back in time 65 million years. If you could travel backwards or forwards in time, where and when would you want to travel? Why?
•  Annie pet the dinosaur when she first saw him. What would you do if you were that close to a real dinosaur? Would you be scared? Excited? Nervous?
•  What do you think a dinosaur feels like? Have you ever touched a lizard or a snake (or any other reptile)? Do you think the dinosaur would feel more like a reptile or more like a dog?
•  Jack reads that the triceratops eats only plants. What do you call an animal that eats only plants? (Herbivore) Only meat? (Carnivore) Both plants and meat? (Omnivore) What are people? What are you?
•  What do you think the “M” on the gold medallion means? Who do you think left it there?
•  Annie and Jack find dinosaur eggs. What other kinds of animals lay eggs? Do humans lay eggs?
•  Annie walks up to all the dinosaurs and none of them hurt her. Do you think it is safe to go up to animals that are not your pets? Do you think they will always be nice to you? Why or why not?
•  If you went on an adventure like Jack and Annie, would you tell anyone? If yes, do you think they would believe you?

Craft ideas:
•  Draw your favorite dinosaur
•  Make a dinosaur mask
•  Make a dinosaur word find

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!