Thunder Lizards, Van Gogh, & Raising Writers

Did you hear the news?

Sisters - dinosaur Late 80s
Yes, I am the blue brontosaurus

(1)  Brontosaurus may be back! As I discussed in my favorite post on this blog, The Brontosaurus Between Us, it’s been the scientific consensus since 1903 that what had been called Brontosaurus was really an Apatosaurus. That didn’t stop 20th Century books about dinosaurs from including the Brontosaurus. Can you blame them, though? It’s an awesome name for an awesome dinosaur.

One of my favorite books from the late 1980s, Stan and Jan Berenstain’s The Day of the Dinosaur, said:

The giant Brontosaurus
was seventy feet tall.
Its name means ‘thunder lizard.’
It was the biggest one of all.

This reference to Brontosaurus was out-of-date then, but it might not be out-of-date now!

New research suggests that “the original thunder lizard is actually unique enough to resurrect the beloved moniker.” According to one study, there are subtle differences between the bones of the original Brontosaurus and two known species of Apatosaurus. It remains to be seen whether other paleontologists can replicate these results and, if so, whether the scientific community will agree that the subtle differences warrant different names. Still, it’s exciting news.

(2) Moving onto another topic, I’ve decided that I want to learn more about Vincent van Gogh.

Van Gogh 2So, I downloaded all 900+ pages of Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith’s Van Gogh: The Life. Right now, I’m reading about van Gogh’s childhood, when his evenings ended with a book:

“Far from being a solitary, solipsistic exercise, reading aloud bound the family together and set them apart from the sea of rural Catholic illiteracy that surrounded them. Anna and Dorus [van Gogh’s parents] read to each other and to their children; the older children read to the younger; and, later in life, the children read to their parents. Reading aloud was used to console the sick and distract the worried, as well as to educate and entertain.” [Chapter 2]

“Solipsistic” isn’t a word we see every day.

Sadly, reading aloud isn’t an activity that many of us engage in every day either. Reading is usually just one of many forms of solitary entertainment at home.

In my household, though, my children are still young enough to love listening to the books I read to them.

As I mentioned in Reading Aloud: Ephemeral Entertainment I Wish Would Last Longer, we read together at the bus stop in the morning, before bed at night, and whenever we have downtime on the weekends.

Right now, we’re reading From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, a book originally published in 1967 that has been an interesting read for my 21st Century children (a subject for a later post).

The books we’ve read together have encouraged age-appropriate discussions about major issues, like homelessness (thanks to Louis Sachar’s Holes) and the Holocaust (thanks to Patricia Polacco’s The Butterfly). They’ve also been the basis for conversations about writing-related topics, like grammar, plot structure, and character development.

(3) On the subject of writing: Earlier this month, I tweeted about an exchange between my twins:

tweet from april 1st with border

I asked my daughter if she would consider writing down any of those books in her brain.

“I will,” she replied. “When they’re ready.”

I can’t wait! 🙂

(4) Finally, this is my 300th post on this blog! Thanks for reading.


  1. It’s been many a long year since I read out loud – to my daughter. Maybe it would be instructive to do some of one’s own reading out loud to better appreciate the style and construction. But there’s so little time as there is.

    It would be wonderful to read your daughters’ future creative writing knowing that it had its origins on what was introduced to them at a young age.

    Congrats on your 300th AMB, and all of them gems.

  2. I’m about to hit 1000 posts on my blog. I’m thinking I should give something away to celebrate the momentous occasion. 🙂

    I’ve enjoyed ALL your posts. I wish for you many more!

    1. Agreed! I’m so glad that all three of my girls love books. I try to encourage their interests in reading and writing whenever I can.

  3. My grandfather used to read aloud to my mother and aunts and uncles – Shakespeare’s plays (taking all the parts himself) – because he said radio rotted their brains 😉 . BTW, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is still one of my favorite books. Congrats on your 300th post! Always a pleasure to read!

    1. Thank you! My daughters are really enjoying From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, which has become our daily bus stop read.

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