New York City's
American Museum of Natural History

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Books for Beginning Readers

How to Take Your Grandmother to the Museum

By Lois Wyse
Predictably (and with the help of her granddaughter Molly Rose), the author of Funny, You Don't Look Like a Grandmother, Grandchildren Are So Much Fun, I Should Have Had Them First, and You Wouldn't Believe What My Grandchild Did leans heavily on the intergenerational aspect of this outing to New York City's American Museum of Natural History. Discovering that her otherwise well-traveled grandma has never been there, the young narrator reverses their usual roles, introducing dinosaurs and dioramas and displays of fish, rocks, and insects , and then finishing with a trip to the gift shop. The child shares knowledge gained on previous visits in a brief, dialogue-heavy text ("`I love the purple one,' Grandma said. `That's an amethyst geode,' I told her"). The illustrations, like those in Weitzman's You Can't Take a Balloon into the Metropolitan Museum, are made with clipped color photos of actual museum exhibits inset into sprightly ink-and-wash cartoons. The effect is a bit precious, but Wyse closes with additional descriptions of the wonders her characters view. This could be read in preparation for a trip to any large natural-history museum. Children may be as strongly impressed by the evident pleasure that the two visitors take in each other's company as by the setting. That feeling of intimacy earns this a place alongside Aliki's standard-setting My Visit to the Dinosaurs.

Description from Booklist

As soon as Molly and her grandmother get to the museum, Molly says, "Stay close to me at all times, and do not wander off by yourself." Good advice because Molly knows a great deal about the museum and poor, untutored Grandma apparently knows nothing. Illustrations are an interesting mix of cheerful, cartoonish art and superimposed photos of actual dinosaur skeletons, which are properly dominant. Kids will enjoy the art and the child who is so much smarter than the adult here, yet the child sounds like a textbook most of the time. Good glossary with pictures, but the stilted text is hard to overcome.

Description from Children's Literature

When Molly takes her grandmother to the Museum of Natural History, they take in the Dinosaur Hall, dioramas of wildlife, and the Hall of Ocean Life. Watercolors incorporate photographs from the actual New York museum so that the reader gets a you-are-there perspective of the interior. But Molly's overinformed dialogue (talk about a walking encyclopedia!) and Grandma's gung-ho attitude will make those perceptive of the thinly veiled didacticism wish they'd stayed home.

Description from Horn Book

The Most Amazing Dinosaur

By James Stevenson
On a snowy night, Wilfred, a nattily dressed rat, takes shelter in a natural history museum. At first, he's alone and scared of the towering skeletons, but then he meets some rowdy, lovable animals in residence who give him a tour, including a nap in Africa (a diorama), a cafeteria feast, and the animals' own exhibit of "bottle caps, acorns, dried leaves, lost mittens, and toys." When the animals accidentally collapse a dinosaur skeleton, they are discovered and tossed out by the uptight museum director. Happily, they are able to reassemble the bones in such a fabulous, creative way that the museum inspector invites them back in and offers them jobs. Illustrated in Stevenson's usual endearing pen-and-ink and watercolor washes, the story is full of humor and gentle suspense and written in language beginning readers can tackle. Children fascinated by the notion of camping out in a museum but too young for E. L. Konigsburg's From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, will enjoy this vicarious adventure.

Description from Booklist In the prolific Stevenson's latest, a rat on the road gains temporary shelter, new friends, and new destinations in a natural-history museum. One snowy night Wilfred finds his way into an enormous stone building—recognizable as New York's American Museum of Natural History—and meets, among the dioramas and dinosaur fossils, several living residents, including an owl named Pritchett, Harry the snail, and a skunk, Buxton. Cautioning against attracting the attention of Thrawl, the irascible museum director, Buxton, takes Wilfred on a quick behind-the-scenes walkabout, from cafeteria to Pritchett's private museum of found objects in the attic. In his characteristic sketchy, (seemingly) casual watercolors, Stevenson effectively captures the drama and intricacy of the exhibits. His animal characters change relative size from scene to scene, which here is not the flaw it would be in most other illustrators' work, but an effective technique for viewing the museum's treasures from a child's eye level. Wilfred and his companions go from being fugitives to “Special Assistants” after they save Thrawl's job by reassembling a collapsed dinosaur (in a hilariously balletic posture), but come spring, Wilfred is off on his bicycle, with Harry in his pocket, to see real whales and elephants and bears. Kindle interest in an outing with this appealing glimpse of a museum after hours.

Description from Kirkus Reviews

Gaspard and Lisa at the Museum

By Anne Gutman and Georg Hallensleben
Gaspard and Lisa try not to turn adventures into misadventures, but it's hard. Especially when the whole class gets to go on an exciting field trip to the Museum of Natural History. What wonders lie within! A whale skeleton, monkeys, and dinosaurs thrill the students, but the exhibit of extinct animals is the most exciting of all. When their classmates make a silly joke about the two friends looking like extinct animals (they are dogs; the classmates are human), the cunning canines decide to gently retaliate. They hop into the extinct animal exhibit themselves, making small signs--"very rare animal (white)" and "very rare animal (black)"--and freezing like statues in the display. Their ruse is a success! Or is it? Anne Gutman and Georg Hallensleben's Gaspard and Lisa books are all very slight stories, but with such quiet, charming details and unbearably cute (yet gorgeous) illustrations that they completely charm our socks off.

Description from

The Misadventures of Gaspard and Lisa series continues with an exciting class field trip to the Museum of Natural History. Gaspard and Lisa decide to play a joke on their classmates by becoming part of the exhibit. Their plan works perfectly, so perfectly that when the museum closes for the night, guess who are locked in?

Description from Publisher

Call Me Ahnighito

By Pam Conrad and Richard Egielski

  • Best Books of 1995 (SLJ)
  • "A Few Good Books 1995" (Book Links)
  • 1996 Notable Trade Books in the Language Arts (NCTE)

This book about a meteorite is told in the first person by the meteorite -- and the narrative actually works. The story details how the meteorite, having landed in the Arctic, waits for hundreds of years until it is discovered by the Peary expedition in 1897, christened hnighito,and brought to New York. Conrad uses evocative phrases, and Egielski's interpretations of the Arctic are magnificent.

Description from Horn Book

In a story based on fact, a meteorite lands in Greenland, where it sits for centuries, known only to the people of the Arctic. In 1894 the Peary expedition finds the rock and digs it out of the ground. Later a ship transports it to New York, where it sits on a dock for seven years until it is hauled to the American Museum of Natural History for display. In what can only be described as an odd (and not terribly successful) choice of voice, the story is told in first person from the point of view of the meteorite. If readers can get past the anthropomorphism ("I lay open, exposed, and so alone" ), this does offer interesting details of how the rock was extracted from the ground and its subsequent moves. The rock also communicates its fear of tumbling into the sea, its satisfaction at being christened Ahnighito, and its boredom while sitting on the dock. Well-composed paintings, full of lively depictions of the people and places around Ahnighito, stretch across wide double-page spreads. Throughout the book, Egielski achieves subtle and exceptionally beautiful effects with color, texture, and light. An unusual resource for classroom units on astronomy, geology, or the Arctic.

Description from Booklist

In 1894, Robert E. Peary's team of explorers discovered a car-sized metallic meteorite in Greenland and, after several aborted efforts, hauled it off to New York City. This would be an intriguing story even if conventionally told, but Conrad makes it unforgettable by choosing the meteorite itself to be the narrator. Named by Peary's young daughter (supposedly after her Inuit nanny), Ahnighito joyfully describes how lonely centuries of isolation come at last to an end as it is levered out of the ice, slowly dragged aboard ship, left to languish for years on a dock in the Brooklyn Navy Yards, then trucked across Manhattan to the American Museum of Natural History, where it rests today in proud splendor. Egielski's stubby-limbed workers strain and grimace with the effort of moving the great lump; their period dress and the cityscape through which they move capture the era's look and flavor expertly. For an object whose lifespan can be measured in millions of years, Ahnighito's point of view seems rather confined, but this wonderfully fresh, energetic tale will still have wide appeal.

Description from School Library Journal

Dinosaurs at the Ends of the Earth

By Brian Floca
A mystery, vistas, camels, a sandstorm, and dinosaurs...what more could a young dreamer want?

The Gobi Desert, Mongolia: "A land of secrets, " says Dr. Roy Chapman Andrews. He's talking in his jovial way to Walter Granger, a paleontologist, and George Olsen, their assistant, a young man whose surprising discovery made scientific history. Andrews led five expeditions across the Gobi for the American Museum of Natural History. This book chronicles those of 1922 and 1923, when he took with him some twenty men and an unlikely fleet of cars as an alternative to the more traditional camels. Originally expected to unearth signs that man had originated in Asia, these explorations stumbled across an unexpected find. And George did the stumbling-down the Flaming Cliffs near Shabarakh Usu, where dinosaurs roamed eighty million years ago. The find was a delicate egg, heavy as stone now and the answer to an old mystery: Dinosaurs were not born; they were hatched! A route map, a time line, crisp text, and breathtaking pictures present the sequence and excitement of bone-finding and preserving in the field for young readers eighty million years later.

Description from Publisher

A highly pictorial, fictionalized account of real scientific expeditions led by Roy Chapman Andrews. Under the aegis of the American Museum of Natural History, the goal of the Central Asiatic Expeditions was to discover evidence of human origin in the heart of Mongolia's Gobi Desert, and while no human/hominid fossils were found, what was discovered made global headlines. Floca has braided these marvelous adventures together, focusing on young George Olsen, a new assistant to the Chief Paleontologist, and his discovery of the first clutch of fossilized dinosaur eggs. The author seamlessly weaves events from several expeditions, adds some logical dialogue, and teams the result with bright, realistic watercolors to transport readers across space and time to the vast, arid Gobi and the startling Flaming Cliffs. While purists will carp at the m lange of incidents and the fictional dialogue, this is a worthy introduction to the romantic era of fossil hunting. Ann Bausum's superb Dragon Bones and Dinosaur Eggs, Margery Facklam's excellent Tracking Dinosaurs in the Gobi, and Mark Norell and Lowell Dingus's riveting A Nest of Dinosaurs are all more scientific, but are for a slightly older audience.

Description from School Library Journal

Sure, a disconcerting number of children can rattle off complex Latin names for every dinosaur known to humankind, but how many of them know who came up with those names, and how many appreciate the efforts necessary to find the first fossils? Floca's spirited tale of the American Museum of Natural History's arduous expeditions into Mongolia in the 1920s contributes welcome historical perspective. This fictionalized account of the expeditions led by museum director-and colorful character-Roy Chapman Andrews (an author's note briefly sketches the life and work of the real Andrews) is told from the point of view of then research assistant George Olsen. During the expeditions, George stumbles upon the first dinosaur egg fossils, a huge discovery that completely revises existing theories in the field of paleontology. The upbeat dialogue feels historically appropriate, a tone that is reflected in the watercolor illustrations, with their careful attention to period details. The attention to scientific detail is also excellent-accurate descriptions of the ways in which paleontological expeditions were conducted are skillfully integrated into the narrative. Sadly, these fossil expeditions-with all their promise for exciting new developments in scientific theories about dinosaurs-were the last in the region for sixty years, as Mongolia was closed to Western visitors. As a result, Andrews's theories were left untouched until the early 1990s, when new expeditions by Mongolian and American researchers yielded even more amazing finds. Sitting neatly at an intersection of history, science, and storytelling, the book provides historical context for children who already know loads of facts about dinosaurs, but also sneaks in scientific learning for those who primarily find the story engaging. Endpapers provide further information about four dinosaurs discovered in this region, and a timeline plots their appearance in the Earth's history. Perhaps the best feature of the fictionalized account is that it leaves the reader wanting to know even more about dinosaurs, scientific expeditions, and the characters in the story-fostering more reading and learning about the science and history of paleontology.

Description from Horn Book

Books for Older Readers


By Jon Scieszka
Zapped into the 21st century by The Book, the Time Warp Trio find that their future is definitely worth waiting for. Actually, waiting forever would be okay: 3-D ads attack them on the street, ray-gun toting robots demand their ID numbers--or else. And a meeting with their great-grandkids could knock out the old family tree at the roots. Will the trio's future mix-up wipe out their past?

Description from Publisher

This installment of the adventures of the Time Warp Trio has Fred, Joe and Sam blasting into the future when they get bored during a class trip to the museum. They find themselves ill-prepared for the future-they don't know how to evade the Sellbot threatening them with its laser, they don't have antigravity disks, and they aren't dyed unusual colors like the other New Yorkers they find. At least Ray's Pizza is the same. How will they return to 1995? And who are those three girls who keep chasing them? Each chapter ends in a cliffhanger that will urge the most reluctant reader to forge ahead.

Description from Children's Literature

The Time Warp Trio is back--to the future, this time, as Joe, Fred, and Sam travel to the year 2095, again courtesy of Uncle Joe's magic book. Launching their trip from the 1920s room in the Natural History Museum, the boys arrive in the future's museum, where they see the 1990s showcased in an exhibit of the past. Such ironies of time travel abound as the three encounter their great-grandchildren, who rightly strive to return their ancestors to the past. Scieszka writes with a kid's perspective at all times, blending a warp-speed pace with humor that ranges from brainy riddles to low brow upchuck jokes. Although the plot is a bit thin and meandering, readers will find sufficient distraction in the robots and levitation footwear of the future. Smith targets the audience equally well with black pencil illustrations brimming with zany, adolescent hyperbole.

Description from Booklist

97 Orchard Street, New York:
Stories of Immigrant Life by Linda Granfield

(Lower East Side Tenement Museum)
Guided by the stories of four families known to live in the titular tenement, author Linda Granfield provides an illuminating look at life at the turn of the century and beyond in 97 Orchard Street, New York: Stories of Immigrant Life. Arlene Alda's sensitive b&w photographs of the building, which has been preserved as the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, share space with historical images and artifacts from the museum's collection, as well as photographs of the neighborhood today.

Description from Publishers Weekly

The Lower East Side Tenement Museum opened in New York City in 1994. "Urban archeology," "diligent research," and "interviews with former residents" facilitated the re-creation of this building that housed immigrants from the mid-1800s to its closing in 1935. Essentially a photo-essay of material from the museum, the text is divided into 13 brief sections beginning with "Mystery: The Gumpertz Family." Readers learn that "Julius Gumpertz walked out of the building-on a crisp October morning in 1874" never to be heard from again. Working as a seamstress, his wife managed to support her four young children, one of whom "died of diarrhea, an all-too-common fate for nineteenth-century infants." Each black-and-white photograph is accompanied by a detailed caption. Other sections introduce three more families and also tell their stories through artifacts and oral histories. Additional segments such as "Early Immigration" and "Ellis Island: Portal of Hope" deal with more general aspects of immigration at that time. Chock-full of the simple details of everyday life as well as larger tales of human joy and suffering, this volume presents an intriguing window into urban tenements just before and after the turn of the century. Be aware that there is no table of contents, no index, and the information presented does not follow a simple time line. However, the book is a useful addition to general collections, especially as a starting point for further investigation.

Description from School Library Journal

Secrets from the Rocks: Dinosaur Hunting with Roy Chapman Andrews

By Albert Marrin
Growing up in Beloit, Wisconsin, in the late nineteenth century, Roy Chapman Andrews began exploring early. He roamed the outdoors, carrying field glasses and a notebook. After graduating from college, he was so determined to work for the American Museum of Natural History in New York City that when he was told there were no positions available, he offered to wash the museum's floors -- and he got the job. Washing floors turned into collecting whale specimens, and that turned into fossil hunting. Starting in 1922, Andrews led five car-and-camel expeditions to the Gobi Desert in Mongolia to search for fossils. His team's discoveries -- of dinosaur eggs, new dinosaur species, and the earliest mammals -- changed the way we think about the great Age of Dinosaurs. In striking duotone photographs and vivid prose, historian and storyteller Albert Marrin captures the excitement and the science of the expeditions' encounters -- with fossils, suffocating sandstorms, snakes, bandits, an exotic culture, political turmoil, and more. Here is a fascinating, fast-paced evocation of all the wonder and adventure of uncovering secrets from the rocks.

Description from Publisher

The Gobi Desert! Dinosaur Eggs! Roy Chapman Andrews! Andrews was one of the heroes of my childhood, a dashing adventurer right up there with Haliburton and Martin and Osa Johnson. His claim to fame was leading a series of expeditions for the American Museum of Natural History into exotic Mongolia in search of fossils. Marrin recounts the story of these expeditions between 1922 and 1930 with vivid excerpts from Andrews's own memoirs. He also retells Andrews's life, from begging his first job at New York's famous museum to working his way up from whales to the Gobi Desert. Along the way, Marrin also explains in simple terms the facts of paleontology, and throws in a little of China's chaotic history during the period as well. The end result is fascinating and well-written. It's also lovingly designed, with exquisite reproductions of duotone photographs from Andrews's life and travels. Albert Marrin may have retired from university teaching, but one hopes he will never retire from writing for young people.

Description from Children's Literature

This excellent biography tells what little is known of Andrews's childhood and youth, then focuses on the adventure and science of his explorations and dinosaur discoveries in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia. The fossils unearthed on his trips had an impact on our understanding of prehistoric life and cemented the stature of the Museum of Natural History in New York City. Marrin does an admirable job of recognizing the esteem due to such a robust and successful explorer without ignoring our contemporary views on excluding women, shooting rare animals, and plundering the national treasures of other countries. He includes compelling details of danger and triumph and offers scientific and political background. Many full-page, black-and-white photographs illustrate this oversized volume. Many of the archival photographs are identical to those in Ann Bausum's Dragon Bones and Dinosaur Eggs, which also includes some of the same details from the expeditions but does not offer the depth of explanation of important topics such as how fossils are formed or the role of women in scientific exploration at that time. Brian Floca's Dinosaurs at the Ends of the Earth is a fictionalized picture-book version of the Gobi explorations illustrated with watercolors. Secrets will inspire and enlighten students who love dinosaurs or biographies or both.

Description from School Library Journal Often regarded as the inspiration behind Indiana Jones, renowned dinosaur hunter Andrews marks an apt change of pace for Marrin, best known for rousing accounts of wars and generals. Working for New York's American Museum of Natural History, Andrews first made his name collecting whales just before the WWI, then went on to organize an epochal series of expeditions into Mongolia, searching for—and finding in profusion—the remains of prehistoric creatures. Indulging in his fondness for lurid, attention-grabbing anecdotes, the author tucks a beheading, some gunplay, and a meal featuring boiled sheep's eyes into his account of Andrew's adventures, discoveries, family life, and opinions on various topics from hunting to women. Contemporary photos capture the rugged conditions under which Andrews and his companions labored, as well as some of their revolutionary findings; back matter includes a perfunctory list of books and Web sites.

Description from Kirkus Reviews

Dragon Bones and Dinosaur Eggs: A Photobiography of Explorer Roy Chapman Andrews

By Ann Bausum
This fifth title in National Geographic Society's acclaimed photobiography series celebrates Roy Chapman Andrews (1884-1960), one of the great explorers of the century. Andrews is best known for discovering dinosaur bones, whole fossilized dinosaur eggs, and a previously unknown dinosaur species in Mongolia's Gobi Desert.

Description from Publisher

Along with a generous array of atmospheric, sometimes dramatic, contemporary photographs, this biography charts Andrews's career as intrepid adventurer but praises him chiefly as a scientist who was also a skilled organizer and leader. Plainly a progenitor of Indiana Jones (he even hated snakes), Andrews began by mopping floors at New York's American Museum of Natural History, eventually became its director, and in-between led a series of literally and figuratively ground-breaking expeditions into the Gobi in search of fossils. Bausum barely mentions his private life, but she does add some depth to her portrait by quoting him ("In the [first] fifteen years [of fieldwork] I can remember just ten times when I had really narrow escapes from death") and by taking him to task for some misidentifications and for his proprietary attitude toward fossils found in foreign soil. Well chosen lists of books and sites cap this tribute to a man whose writings and exploits continue to inspire dinosaur hunters of all ages.

Description from Kirkus Reviews Whether or not the charismatic Andrews was "the real-life model" for Indiana Jones, he was certainly a flamboyant, headline-grabbing paleontologist in the days of his Mongolian expeditions. This slim, well-researched book is a record of his life and accomplishments. Larded with quotes from his own writings and personal letters, and with fine sepia-toned photographs taken in the field and in more civilized surroundings, the absorbing text invites readers into a world distant in both space and time. Andrews's adventurous spirit and organizational skills opened a new age in scientific exploration, using then-modern technology and a diverse team of experts in various fields. Recent explorations to Central Asia have brought to light startling new fossil finds that have been chronicled in such excellent titles as Mark Norell and Lowell Dingus's A Nest of Dinosaurs and Searching for Velociraptor, and Margery Facklam's Tracking Dinosaurs in the Gobi. Inevitably, readers of these books will encounter Andrews, and what better way for a fresh generation of dinophiles and budding scientists to further this acquaintance than this exemplary work on an extraordinary individual.

Description from School Library Journal

P.C. Hawke Mysteries #1

The Scream Museum

By Paul Zindel
P.C. Hawke and his partner-in-sleuthing, Mackenzie Riggs, are shocked to learn that their friend, Tom, a custodian, is accused of murdering the chief biologist at the Museum of Natural History. As P.C. and Mackenzie dig deeper into the strange story, they discover a stolen world-famous necklace, an anthropologist trained in Indonesian medicine and hypnosis, and a fat, hairy tarantula named Aristotle.

Description from Publisher

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