The remarkable true story of science superstar Joan Wiffen, whose fossil discoveries proved that dinosaurs lived in ancient New Zealand.
You learn something new every day. I’m shocked to say I didn’t know who Joan Wiffen was, or that dinosaurs lived in ancient NZ, until a trip to the museum and reading Dinosaur Hunter taught me this fact, and who discovered it to be true! We really should hear more about incredible New Zealander’s, and that’s the best thing about Dinosaur Hunter, and the other remarkable true stories in these picture book biographies of famous New Zealanders: Sir Edmund Hillary (First to the Top, 2015), Burt Munro (Speed King, 2016), Jean Batten (Sky High, 2017) and Sir Peter Blake (Hero of the Sea), it’s a factual narrative bought to life by the talented illustration of Phoebe Morris and David Hill’s writing.
There’s no beating around the bush with this book, there’s no swish went the wind and thwack went the hammer, boom went the dynamite and tack tack went the chisel, nope, we’re here to learn about Joan and her journey to become the Dinosaur Hunter who discovered dinosaur fossils in NZ! She was born, she married, she went to her husbands night class and she discovered her passion. The dinosaurs died, their bones went into the earth, under the sea, came out on mountains, and were pushed into rock in NZ (or something like that). And Joan discovers this! Using sledgehammers, chisels, power saws and dynamite we hear about the hunter and the helpers going about their efforts of discovery. Liquid wax, bubbling acid and plaster casts all part of their palaeontology work. Discovery, confirmation and acknowledgement of the existence of dinosaurs in ancient NZ! It’s not a book deep in the creative description of sounds, or “I said”, “she said”, “said the so-and-so” sentences, it’s a biography that doesn’t shy away from facts, detail and long words (how do we pronounce “plesiosaur” anyway?), but it’s simply written with enough talk of a campfire, a hut, and a shark as long as a cricket pitch, as well as dinosaur bones of course, to keep the kids imagination engaged and attentive minds taking note.
My 5 year old is knee deep in dinosaurs and space at the moment and was terribly excited to be tucking into a story about a Dinosaur Hunter. Though it’s not long, it was still longer than expected, but his interest peaked on hearing the details of discovering dinos, and the timeline of Joan Wiffens life and work was throughly examined. Dinosaur Hunter is a wonderful book, the whole series of biographies a wonderful idea, to bring to young kids the inspirational lives of Kiwi heroes, and their passionate adventures in life. For Joan Wiffen, her remarkable story of fossil discovery didn’t begin till she was 40 years old! Safe to say, mum and son alike were inspired, engaged, and schooled by the Dinosaur Hunter, the true story of an exceptional, and most unordinary woman, and a 5 year old boy tucked into bed happily with what he’s determined to be an ankylosaurus.
Have your kids read any of the Kiwi Hero biographies?
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Written by Ronnie Swainston
Online Producer & Experiences Editor Ronnie is mum to two spirited kids who keep her on her toes. With a love for travel, film, tv, photography & (eating) food keeping her wishing for more time, & having a keen curiosity means she’ll give almost anything a go making her, and her family, up for the job!
Favourite place to be: On an adventure