Rock mammoths are awesome!
They’re often in the drawings prehistoric people chalked on the walls of their caves.
See the people running after the mammoths, carrying long, pointy pens? Researchers think they are trying to get mammoth autographs.
Some of the drawings led us to believe that rock mammoths wrote a lot of popular songs. The Cro-Magnon people in the cave drawings often have their eyes closed and their fists in the air.
Voivoden Mamouten even discovered drawings of prehistoric people fainting as these colossal celebrities passed by.
(In word bubble) Hey! I think my cousin and I saw that one in a concert! He has the same hair!
Rock Mammoth, by Eveline Payette and illustrated by Guillaume Perreault, is intended to be a book that offers a basic introduction to the scientific method in a fun and enjoyable way for ‘early readers’. Louis, the young boy in the book, must present research on his pet to his fellow classmates and teacher. The book, itself, is designed to look like a classic school exercise book and often has illustrations that show the insides of Louis’ research notebook. Louis has decided to do his report on his pet, the Rock Mammoth, which are apparently “ancestors of the hairy musicians of the seventies [and] have remained hidden for several millennia, looking for a break from being rockstars”. Throughout the course of the book, Louis’ teacher and fellow students are skeptical about the validity of Louis’ report. The book ends with Louis presenting his actual pet Rock Mammoth (named Mayonnaise) to the class, and Mayonnaise plays his electric guitar for the class while they rock along.
This book offers some scientific vocabulary, such as “hypothesis” and “bibliography”, that may be familiar or educational to readers. Louis also uses ‘Latin names’ during his research (I put ‘Latin names’ in quotations as his Latin terminology is made up for the purpose of the book, but it can lead into a great talking point about the Latin names of plants and animals). His report to the class, as presented in the book, includes his oral elements, pieces from his notebook (including research notes, questions asked and answered, charts, tables, pictures, etc.), and commentary from his teacher and fellow classmates. This could be used as an important tool to share with students about how research is messy, sometimes leads us to places we don’t expect, and that, even if we fail at some things (like Louis does in some of his research and experiences), we should try again, especially if it’s something for which we really want to find an answer.
Rock Mammoth, however, is a somewhat confusing book to read, especially out loud. The book takes an oral class report very literally and attempts to put in all the various side ramblings of the presenter, interruptions of the teacher for Louis to stay on task, and the questions and comments of his classmates. The story is also interrupted with many of Louis’ notebook notes, drawings, and irrelevant side information (for example, Louis takes a couple of pages to compare the Rock Mammoth to his parents and describes his dad pretending to play air guitar on a tennis racquet and his mom singing along with her hairbrush microphone). Louis also takes a page to draw a very detailed diagram of a tomato and mayonnaise sandwich. While the diagram could be used as a teaching tool for how to (or how not to) draw diagrams, the diagram, itself, is another tangent from the ‘main’ storylines that breaks up the flow. These tangents are meant to bring comedy to the book, but instead they perhaps needlessly drag Rock Mammoth out longer than it should be.
Though this book is listed as an illustrated novel for early readers (as young as 7- years-old), it is neither a novel nor suitable for early readers. The terminology and language are much too difficult for young readers, and the story is both too long and too disorganized to make sense to or hold their interest. The book also uses humour and references that would likely be too mature or obscure for younger readers to understand and who would then miss the comedic relief. Rock Mammoth would be more suitable for strong grade three readers (possibly) up to grade five or six; however, students getting into the grade five to six range are less likely to pick up a ‘picture book’ or ‘illustrated fiction’ book. The illustrations in the provided ARC are black and white, but they will be in colour in the final copy. Sketchy and cute, the illustrations would be appealing to readers. This book would be fun to use by having students critique and ‘mark’ Louis’ oral presentation and research methods in hopes of teaching them how to conduct themselves during their own research and presentations. However, Rock Mammoth may not be picked up by students on their own unless it was recommended to them.
Dawn Opheim, an avid reader with a Masters Degree in Teacher-Librarianship, works at an elementary school in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.