How to Avoid Extinction


How To Avoid Extinction
by Paul Acampora

Readers Theater

Book Trailer

Author Interview

Related Activities & Resources:

Informational Resources:

Author Information:

Paul Acampora’s website:

Paul Acampora’s biography:

Activities & Resources:



Bear Facts:


Chicken Facts:

Mike the Headless Chicken Festival Fruita, CO:


American Museum of Natural History dinosaur lessons:

Allosaurus facts and pictures:

Allosaurus dinosaur information:

Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry website:

Multicultural Food:

Description of Filipino snacks:

Discuss which of the snacks Honey’s mother sends with Leo and Abbey. Ask students which ones they would be willing to taste. Have students look up the snack and determine if they would still be willing to try it.

Have students bring in their favorite snack that is culture specific. Place all snacks on a table with labels and share snacks with group. Have a separate table for friends with dietary needs.

Road Trips:

Plan a road trip using one of these famous routes:

Create a list of items to take on your road trip. Need suggestions? Try 7 Steps to Planning a Road Trip:


How to build a volcano that erupts:


Have students write journal entries about the trip from the perspective of Kermit the dog. Entries should include each stop on the road trip that Kermit made with the family.

From the point of view of Leo, write a letter to your long lost father. Include questions about information you would like to learn about him as well as his family and heritage.

MakerSpace Activities:

Make dinosaur fossils!  Take out play dough and flatten out using your hands. Then take the foot of a dinosaur toy and make imprints in the play dough. Let play dough set and dry.

Have students create a map detailing the route Leo, Abbey, and Gram took to get from their home in Allentown, PA, to the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry. Identify the stops they made throughout the story.

Make a vlog in which you would cook a dish discussed in the book. Include step by step instructions using props in lieu of raw and cooked foods.

Discussion Questions:

If you were Leo, would you have chosen to follow Gram? Why?

Why do you think Leo’s mother made him go find his grandmother?

In the story, Leo and his family enjoy donuts at a local cafe’.  Describe your favorite donut or treat and why it’s the best you have ever had.

Why do you think Leo’s grandmother wanted to go to Utah?

Do you agree with Leo’s mother choosing not to tell Leo about his Uncle Peter? Why?

Allosaur means “different lizard”. Why do you think the author chose this as Leo’s grandfather’s favorite dinosaur?  What does it tell about his character? Explain.

What is your opinion of Honey Buenafe’s sign explaining her tattoos? Explain your answer.

After meeting Honey Buenafe at the museum and seeing all of her tattoos, Gram asks where she could get one like the dinosaur fossil on Honey’s wrist.  Do you agree with Leo that Gram cannot get a tattoo or would you support her desire? Explain.

Why do you think Leo uses the simile “a burly police officer who looks like a square blue LEGO block with a head…”? Explain the meaning.

Leo talks the policeman outside of the museum out of giving them a parking ticket.  What would you have done or said differently to get out of that situation?

If you could be friends with one of the characters, which would you choose? Why?

Do you think Honey’s parents did the right thing helping Leo and his grandmother find a new car? Explain.

Would you be willing to try champorado for breakfast? Why?

Why do you think Gram leaves Leo, Abbey, and Kermit behind? Explain.

Which of the treats from Honey’s mom would you be willing to try? Why?

What would you do if you stumbled upon a baby and mama bear?

How do you feel about how Leo and Abbey handled what to do with Kermit the dog?

What was Gram’s fear when Leo’s mother arrived? What does this show about her character? Explain.

Honey Buenafe is considered a supporting character who is vital to the story by some reviewers. Do you agree? Why?

Why do you think Leo wants to road trip home with his mother instead of flying? Explain.

Book Talk Teasers:

Read this book’s Readers Theater.

Brachiosaurus. Tyrannosaurus Rex. Stegosaurus. Allosaurus. Leo’s grandfather. All of these have suffered the consequences of disappearing forever. Now Leo and his grandmother are on a quest to find How to avoid extinction.

Read Alikes:


Cheng, Jack. See you in the cosmos. Eleven-year-old Alex Petroski is determined to launch his golden iPod into space, just like his hero Carl Sagan launched the Golden Record into space ages and ages ago. Instead, Alex and his dog, aptly named Carl Sagan, wind up on a road trip with some unexpected (and awesome) traveling companions and more than one eye-opening detour. (Novelist).

Graff, Lisa. Absolutely almost. Ten-year-old Albie has never been the smartest, tallest, best at gym, greatest artist, or most musical in his class, as his parents keep reminding him, but new nanny Calista helps him uncover his strengths and take pride in himself. (Novelist).

Henkes, Kevin. The year of Billy Miller. Seven-year-old Billy Miller starts second grade with a bump on his head and a lot of worries, but by the end of the year he has developed good relationships with his teacher, his little sister, and his parents and learned many important lessons. (Novelist).

Hunt, Lynda Mullaly. Fish in a tree. “Ally’s greatest fear is that everyone will find out she is as dumb as they think she is because she still doesn’t know how to read”–. (Novelist).

Kinney, Jeff. Old school. “Life was better in the old days. Or was it? That’s the question Greg Heffley is asking as his town voluntarily unplugs and goes electronics-free. But modern life has its conveniences, and Greg isn’t cut out for an old-fashioned world. With tension building inside and outside the Heffley home, will Greg find a way to survive?”–. (Novelist).

Look, Lenore. Alvin Ho. A young boy in Concord, Massachusetts, who loves superheroes and comes from a long line of brave Chinese farmer-warriors, wants to make friends, but first he must overcome his fear of everything. (Novelist).

Lord, Cynthia. Half a chance. Lucy, with her mother and her photographer father, has just moved to a small rural community in New Hampshire, and with her new friend Nate she plans to spend the summer taking photos for a contest, but pictures sometimes reveal more than people are willing to see. (Novelist).

Steadman, Rebecca. Liar & spy. Seventh-grader Georges adjusts to moving from a house to an apartment, his father’s efforts to start a new business, his mother’s extra shifts as a nurse, being picked on at school, and Safer, a boy who wants his help spying on another resident of their building. (Novelist).

Tarshis, Lauren. Hurricane Katrina, 2005. Eleven-year-old Barry Hunter and his family attempt to ride out Hurricane Katrina at home in the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans when his little sister gets ill, but when the levees break, Barry gets swept away from his family. (Novelist).


Acampora, Paul.  How to Avoid Extinction.  Scholastic Press, 2016. School Library Journal (July 1, 2016)
Gr 4-7-The transformative power of the American road trip is taken to new heights through the skillful pen of Acampora in this fast-paced family story full of humor and heart. Thirteen-year-old Leo and his overworked mom, his feisty grandmother, and his 17-year-old cousin Abbey are all still grieving the death of Leo’s beloved grandfather almost a year earlier. Compelled to make the trip she had planned with her husband, Gram determinedly sets off from Allentown, PA, on an end-of-summer cross-country journey in a 1973 Buick with doughnuts in hand, teens in tow, and Abbey’s trusty old golden retriever sprawled in the backseat. Heading for the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry in Utah via a stop at the Field Museum in Chicago, Leo and Abbey learn about natural history, family history, and each other at every turn. Joining them for the adventure (and a ride to her home in Nebraska) is aspiring paleontologist Honey Buenafe, whose instant bond with the family assists with their healing process. There’s no lack of liveliness or bumps in the road, including a bear encounter, an emergency trip to the veterinarian, and a runaway Gram. VERDICT A cast of memorable characters, intelligent banter, and wry humor reminiscent of Richard Peck or Gary Paulsen make this an authentic and unforgettable journey.-Madeline J. Bryant, Los Angeles Public Library © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.   Reprinted with permission from School Library Journal.                                                                                                                                                               Acampora, Paul How to Avoid Extinction
199 pp. Scholastic 2016. ISBN 978-0-545-89906-2 Ebook ISBN 978-0-545-89908-6
(3) 4-6 One year after his grandfather’s death, Leo and his teenage cousin Abby follow feisty widow Gram on a road trip from Pennsylvania to a Utah dinosaur quarry–much to Leo’s nagging mother’s dismay. Acampora offers insight into three generations’ grief, using humor at every opportunity, from revelations of family secrets to a madcap face-off with a bear.  Reprinted from The Horn Book Guide  by permission of Horn Book, Inc.

Acampora, Paul.  How to Avoid Extinction.  Scholastic Press, 2016.
Sept. 2016. 208p. Scholastic, hardcover, $16.99 (9780545899062); Scholastic, e-book, $16.99 (9780545899086). Grades 5-7.
REVIEW. First published September 29, 2016 (Booklist Online).       
Grades 5-7. An impromptu road trip leads to new friendships, the start of healing for a family deeply wounded by the death of its patriarch, and dinosaurs, of course. When widowed Grandma France suddenly decides to set out on a memorial cross-country drive to see Allosaurus fossils at a Utah dig, she sweeps Leo; his teenage caregiver, Abbey; and Abbey’s golden retriever, Kermit the dog, along in her wake—but leaves Leo’s controlling single mom behind. The trip is highlighted by encounters with a mother grizzly and with Honey, a dazzling Filipino American grad student with tats and a pilot’s license, but it turns into a chase when Grandma tries to strand her passengers in Nebraska, and finally culminates with life-altering experiences for all, including Leo’s mother and (alas) the dog. Acampora tucks laughter, tears, light doses of life wisdom, impressive fossils, and any number of appealing characters into this amiable odyssey.  Used with the permission of Booklist

Acampora, Paul How to Avoid Extinction
199 pp. Scholastic 2016. ISBN 978-0-545-89906-2 Ebook ISBN 978-0-545-89908-6
(3) 4-6 One year after his grandfather’s death, Leo and his teenage cousin Abby follow feisty widow Gram on a road trip from Pennsylvania to a Utah dinosaur quarry–much to Leo’s nagging mother’s dismay. Acampora offers insight into three generations’ grief, using humor at every opportunity, from revelations of family secrets to a madcap face-off with a bear.  Reprinted from The Horn Book Guide  by permission of Horn Book, Inc.