Steven Clark Cunningham’s books of poetry have become a family favourite around the house because of the way he uses his words to teach children about hard subjects.
After using his second book about the body to talk to our child about cancer, we thought we’d look into his other publications for our child.
Dinosaur Name Poems is a real treat for both you and your child because of the informative nature of its content and the way it is delivered.
We also love that the entire book, including the glossary, is bilingual in both English and Spanish!
This first book of poems and prose by Dr. Cunningham shows how much he values the concept of nomenclature, or the way we name things, as a significant learning tool.
This book is the first in his Poemenclature series (the most recent book in that series is Your Body Sick and Well: How Do You know?) “Poemeclature” is a word that Cunningham invented to describe his poetry: He uses poetry to define and explain the names of things, hence the combination of the words “poem” and “nomenclature.”
The way something is named can usually tell us much more than simply just what that item’s name is when you break down the name and its meaning, as he does in a fun and clear way in Dinosaur Name Poems, it becomes clear just how much is packed into a name!
When you can explain to a child why something is named the way it is, their understanding of the concept becomes more developed and grounded in facts and science, even if these facts are delivered via poetry!
Explaining the meaning behind why things are called what they are also called helps parents hone language development even in very young children.
However, we think it is important to note that even though this book is great for reading to tots, who will love the vibrant illustrations and the rhythm and rhyme of the poems, older children (and even adults!) will appreciate the plays on words and the more in-depth content in the glossaries.
While the topic of dinosaurs may seem a little specific, or niche, in this book especially it is actually a great subject to get your children excited about a lot of different things.
When you discuss and explore the topic of these reptiles with your child, you open the door to discussions about science, nature, evolution, and even history (and of course language!).
The concepts behind the naming of dinosaurs, which we’ll discuss later, can help expand your child’s imagination and curiosity, encouraging them to discover information on their own and solve puzzles.
Any child who loves to rhyme or hear rhyming words will love Dr. Cunningham’s poems.
He puts his poems together purposefully to make them rhyme, adding to their whimsy.
This is a fun, lighthearted way to teach children about dinosaurs, science, and etymology, or the study of words.
Another thing that is great about Cunningham’s poetry is that he doesn’t just cover well-known dinosaurs like the Tyrannosaurus Rex or Triceratops (although both have poems dedicated to them), but also lesser-known dinosaurs like the Allosaurus or Pachycephalosaurus.
I love that this book goes so in-depth into paleontology and the different dinosaurs as it feels more substantial and educational than others like it, perhaps because it was a collaboration with paleontologist Dr. Richard Kissel of Cornell University’s Paleontological Research Institution!
This book makes it clear and fun to learn about the dinosaurs and their fascinating names.
With only a dinosaur’s fossils to use, paleontologists have limited information to choose a genus name and a species name, but must assign both, and the names are all interesting and serve as puzzels, which kids will have solving this fun and informative book.
The final twenty pages of this book are comprised of a glossary in two parts: one of technical terms, and of the prehistoric creatures, including diet, locomotion, and interesting facts about each creature.
Each definition includes the meaning of the word and its origin, often breaking down the word itself to explain its meaning.
For example, the definition of technical term paleontology notes that the word literally means the study of (“ology”) ancient (“palaeo”) living beings (“onto”).
Words like “carnivorous,” “herbivorous,” and “bipedal” are defined here as they are referenced frequently in the next section of the glossary.
The next section of the glossary, covering prehistoric creatures, is also the book’s most informative section.
It provides detailed information for over thirty different dinosaurs. Each dinosaur description includes a phonetic spelling (ie, “veh-loss-ih-RAP-tor”) of the dinosaur’s name so you can teach your child how to pronounce it.
The glossary also lists each dinosaur’s name’s meaning with a breakdown of its prefix and suffix for full understanding of its meaning, so “velociraptor” is shown to be a combination of “veloci,” which means “swift,” and “raptor,” which means “thief.”
So, kids can decode that the name literally means “swift thief.” The word “dinosaur” itself is a combination of the Greek words “deinos,” which means “terrible” and sauros (or saurus), which means “lizard.”
Each dinosaur description continues after providing the meaning of its name, next listing that dinosaur’s method of locomotion and diet.
And since these and related terms were defined in the first part of the glossary, you and your child can easily refer to them when you’re reading this section.
It’s really cleverly designed to be very accessible and easy to use. Each section also contains an interesting note that further speaks to the meaning behind each dinosaur’s name.
With Dr. Cunningham’s book of poems, you and your child can not only learn why dinosaurs have the names they do, but also use the book as a springboard to talking about lots of other things about our world in a way that is fun and engaging for both of you!
From Three Conditions Press, this 72-page, richly illustrated, bilingual (English and Spanish) collection of poems for young readers won the 2009 Moonbeam Award in both the “Poetry” and the “Spanish Language” categories.
Dr. Steve Cunningham – Author
Dr. Steven Clark Cunningham attended medical school at George Washington University in Washington, DC. Having finished his residency in general surgery at the University of Maryland and a fellowship in surgery of the liver and pancreas at Johns Hopkins University, he currently works as Director of Pancreatic and Hepatobiliary Surgery and Director of Research at Saint Agnes Hospital in Baltimore, MD. He has also served as a contributing editor of Maryland Poetry Review and his poems have appeared in that journal. In addition, his work won the literary arts contest sponsored by the magazine The New Physician. His poems have also appeared in Chimeras, WordHouse Baltimore’s Literary Calendar, and in the anthologies Function at the Junction #2, Pasta Poetics, and Poems for Chromosomes, among others. Dinosaur Name Poems (Three Conditions Press, 2009) is first full-length book of children’s poetry, and won the 2009 Moonbeam Award in both the Children’s Poetry and the Spanish Language categories. Dr. Cunningham can reached through his website, StevenClarkCunningham.net
Dr. Myriam Gorospe – Translator
Dr. Myriam Gorospe was born in San Sebastian (Donostia), Spain. She received her Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Albany. She completed her postdoctoral training at the National Institutes of Health, where she studies genes (some of the same genes that dinosaurs might have had!). She has broad experience translating between English and Spanish, ranging from scientific and technical documents to poetry and literature.
Valeska Maria Populoh – Illustrator
Valeska Maria Populoh grew up in a small town in Germany, immersed in storytelling and rituals. Tales of saints wafting through plumes of smoke in the cathedral blended together with mesmerizing puppet shows beamed in from Poland and the folktales her mother read to her from thick, brown tomes. The calendar was filled with community celebrations – lantern processions on St. Martin’s Day, annual eruptions of color and costume for Carnival… Her childhood was imbued with richness and color. When she moved to America as a young girl, she tumbled headlong into that perplexing terrain of not speaking a language and so improvising pantomime to communicate. Her best tools were picture books and a sticker album her teacher made for her, in which she recorded the words she learned. Art, music and gym class were her solace. From this grew a strong and abiding fascination with language, the power of the body and images to communicate without words, and a sensitivity to feelings of otherness, and the value of community. After years of nomadism, both geographic and professional, she now reside in Baltimore, Maryland, engaged in the community as a puppeteer, performer, artist, and teacher. Making art and illustrating dinosaurs is one part of this life, dedicated to celebrating creativity, making joyful, enriching and colorful experiences available and accessible to others, and supporting youth in their endeavor to find their own creative voice.