Cathy Camper shares the story behind her story …
Years ago, I used to review dinosaur books for School Library Journal. I would pay particular attention to the illustrations, to make sure they were as factual as the texts. I remember once seeing a picture of a T. Rex with a butterfly flapping near its Volkswagen-sized head. That insect intrigued me; was it there just to fill in blank space and look pretty, or were butterflies actually around when T. Rex ruled the world?
I set out to answer what I thought would be an easy question. But pre-Internet, the answer was not so simple to find. It took a lot of reading, research and “translating” of scientific writing that was not only over my head, but also definitely beyond the reach of younger readers. My time researching verified that while kids would definitely love prehistoric insects, there was nothing written “at a kid level” about the subject.
One of the goals of my book was to bring this current scientific research, at that time available only in academic journals, to a format kids could access, and write it in a language kids could understand. This led to some great adventures, including interviews with scientists and paleontologists, a behind-the-scenes visit to the Smithsonian, and training in how all those big dino models are created for museums. I was very pleased that when my book came out, it was exactly how I’d imagined it: an exciting, intelligent science book for kids who loved dinosaurs and bugs. And when I discovered some prehistoric insects that were bigger than your mom…well that was an extra bonus!
And yes, if you’re still wondering, butterflies were around at the time of T. Rex. They were late to arrive in the insect family tree, evolving in the Cretaceous Period, the same time T. Rex showed up, about sixty to eighty million years ago. These butterflies probably ate plants in the pea and cabbage family, which evolved around the same time.
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