A Rare Find – PaleoJoe’s Dinosaur Detective Club

La Brea Tar Pits have become a regular stop on our sojourns to Los Angeles. We hang with my 93 year old grandmother in Leisure World, hit D-land for a day or two, and then, make a quick swing through the Tar Pits before heading home.

We can dash through the museum and marvel over the tar pits in about two hours. We’re efficient. After all, we want to save time to explore the gift shop – a treasure trove of cool trinkets, toys and books not found anywhere else. This is where we first discovered PaleoJoe’s Dinosaur Detective Series and specifically, Book #3 “Secret Sabertooth.”

I had never seen the PaleoJoe series at Barnes & Noble or on the Scholastic order form. Even though kid #1 shrugged his shoulders at the book – eyeballing the $20 super-sized mastodon instead – I was interested. Plus, I’m a sucker for a museum gift shop. Needless to say, we bought both.

The PaleoJoe series is based on a real paleontologist, who serves as the cool-dude adult in the story. Thank goodness because his impulsive and quick-witted wannabe junior paleontologists – Dakota and Shelly – take all kinds of liberties in solving their dino-mysteries.

In “Secret Sabertooth, ” 11 year olds Dakota and Shelly befriend Sarra, whose brother has mysteriously disappeared, leaving behind one huge tooth (a Smilodon tooth, to be exact). I love reading smart kid books! (No doubt, I will own the next Trivia Pursuit game, when I casually answer, “A Smilodon is the scientific word for Sabertooth Cat — of course.”)

Back to the story … the Smilodon tooth leads the CHILDREN on a cross-country trip (sans parents) to the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles. The excitement continues as they break in and explore the secret labyrinth of the La Brea museum to find Sarra’s bro.

Frankly, we stop many times during the reading of the Paleo Joe series with me asking kid #1, “Do you think that’s the best choice? What other (safer) choices could Shelly and Dakota have made?” That said, my mom never questioned the sanity (or insanity!) of Pippi Longstocking. Alas, we continue reading for four nights. At the end of each chapter, my son asks, “Can I read another?” Not without me!

Since then, we have added “Stolen Stegosaurus,” “Raptors Revenge” and “Mysterious Mammoths” to our library (available online only). The books are authored by PaloeJoe himself, along with Wendy Caszatt-Allen.

Not only are these fascinating, smart and thrilling reads – the book itself is constructed to be easy on the eyes. It is printed on extra crisp white paper, using a large font. Think Reader’s Digest (senior edition) for kids. Brillant. This is the first kid book that I’ve read, with an eye to the actual function of reading – typically, at night beneath a bedside lamp.

Plus, the publisher included extras, like “flickr-page animation,” which shows a dinosaur in motion, eating or attacking when the book pages are flicked from beginning to end. For kids that need a little reading motivator, flickr page animation might just encourage them to hold onto the book for a few more pages.

It’s unanimous. Mom and kid #1 agree that PaleoJoe’s Dinosaur Detective Club series is simply one of our best literary finds for 2010. Check it out, pick it up, sit yourself down and enjoy.

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