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Retro Read: Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

What about Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park Captivates Audiences? How Do the Films Add to its Legacy?  

By Isabella Cortes, STEM Read Intern

Millions of years after their extinction, dinosaurs are still fascinating. How did they evolve to fly as birds? Were dinosaurs really feathered? What was the first dinosaur? How intelligent were they? Were some dinosaurs pack hunters? Is it possible to clone a dinosaur? Nobody knew this fascination better than Michael Crichton, author of Jurassic Park.

Jurassic Park follows a group of people who arrive on a private island to preview a dinosaur-themed amusement park. They discover that the park creators have managed to genetically clone actual dinosaurs that now inhabit the island. What could go wrong? After a power malfunction, the dinosaurs escape. It goes about as well as you can expect with a T-Rex and a gang of Velociraptors on the loose. Chaos ensues!

Jurassic Park reads like other STEM Read favorites of ours. It contains an ambitious level of scientific detail. Each of Crichton’s characters is an expert on something. Through the characters, the novel explores genetic engineering, paleontology, biology, mathematics, and more. Readers learn from their expertise. In addition, the suspense throughout the novel is palpable. The combination of thriller and science fiction makes it a page-turner.

The series is still attracting new audiences today. This summer, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom hit theaters. The new Jurassic World movies follow a similar structure to the original book, but with a new resort, new dinosaurs, and new heroes. So how do they compare?

There are certainly differences. For one thing, the book incorporates a level of detail that the movies do not. Crichton delves into the intricacies of the various sciences in the novel. However, Spielberg brought his artistic expertise to Jurassic Park’soriginal adaptation. It is an iconic film to this day. The new Jurassic World movies bring about a healthy nostalgia for Jurassic Park. They reinvent some of the charms of the original book and movie; in addition, they are able to incorporate modern technological advancements.  In my opinion, nothing can beat the original Jurassic Park story; however, there is no denying that the reboot entertains and makes the attraction of the original book come alive again.

Ultimately, Jurassic Park is still incredibly teachable. It will attract students who are curious about the ambitious possibilities of science and exploring the ethics behind them. It has already influenced the works of scientists and storytellers alike! Don’t believe me? Check out The STEM Read Podcast: Science and Storytelling. We talk with biophysicist and science writer, Erika Gebel Berg, about the influence of Jurassic Park on her scientific career!

And if Jurassic Park is over your kiddos heads, try a cute dinosaur picture book for them. Take, for instance, the popular picture book series How Do Dinosaurs by Jane Yolen.  Each teaches young minds important lessons. For example, How do Dinosaurs say I’m Mad? or How do Dinosaurs clean their room? They are dino-mite reads for little paleontologists in the making.

If your kids are still hungry for more after these fun reads, take them to see the real deal: This summer the Chicago Field Museum welcomed a new dinosaur among their ranks: A Titanosaur named Maximo! Spanning 122 feet and rising 28 feet into the air, Maximo is the largest dinosaur ever discovered. Rest assured, those of you loyal to Sue can still find the resident T-REX. She is being moved to the second floor where she will have her own revamped exhibit, opening spring of 2019. They are both sure to give dinosaur-loving students an educational experience they won’t forget!