If you have a kid, there’s a good chance you know the difference between a stegosaurus and a velociraptor. If the passion runs deep, you probably know all about the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods and have a three-year-old who, when asked, says he wants to be a ‘paleontologist.’
Kids are onto something. There’s something truly remarkable about these creatures that once roamed the earth. That the Brachiosaurus, a dinosaur that consumed 440-880 pounds of plants a day, weighed 30-45 metric tons and was 85 feet long, that such a creature once existed means anything is possible. If the Allosaurus once called Wyoming home, why can’t there be purple cats? Or blue dogs? Why can’t water fly up as opposed to down? Maybe there’s a creature that no one has ever seen before and maybe it lives under your house.
Megan E. Bryant has written four wonderful books that are perfect for dinosaur lovers. Woven into the world of dinosaurs is the wonderful world of colors in Colorasaurus. For dinosaur lovers, it’s like slipping kale into a smoothie: you don’t really notice the colors sneaking into the story line. “Yellow sand swirls as a pack of Giganotosaurus stampede over the dunes.” “Be careful, Diplodocus! Don’t get stuck in sticky, black tar!” Shapeasaurus combines shapes and dinosaurs: “The young Tyrannosauruses hide as the Velociraptor tears through the jungle with crescent claws.” Alphasaurus joins together the alphabet and dinosaurs, and Countasaurus—well, you get the idea. The books are brimming with brightly colored dinosaurs that, thanks to illustrator Luciana Navarro Powell, look friendly.
Ages 0-5 | Publisher: Chronicle Books| 2012
By Brenda Huante
You want to sing Creature Count: A Prehistoric Rhyme by Brenda Huante because of its catchy rhyme scheme. “In a prehistoric forest where the ferns and bushes thrived/Lived a mother stegosaur and her little armored five.” Huante, too, builds in the concept of counting. The illustrations by Vincent Nguyen are colorful, with deep greens and blues, and dinosaurs soft-eyed and happy.
Ages 3-6 | Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux| July 3, 2012
1-2-3 Dinosaurs Bite! A Prehistoric Counting Book does something playful with counting. For each number, a dinosaur takes a bite out of the page. “Vicious Velociraptor darts in to steal 2 bites!” And two bites are missing from the page! It’s a clever way to make tangible the concept of counting. The book ends on a note of realism, telling you what the dinosaurs in the book really ate.
Ages 3-7 | Publisher: Sterling| Oct. 2, 2012
By Judy Sierra
There are dinosaur books to teach colors, counting, shapes. How about one that teaches manners? Suppose you Meet a Dinosaur: A First Book of Manners by Judy Sierra is a primer on good manners. “Commotion in the produce aisle! The dinosaur upsets a pile of apples, and they roll away. If you pick them up, what will she say? Thank you.” The dinosaur’s face is very expressive, with big eyes and a pair of pink glasses.
Ages 3-7 | Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers| January 10, 2012
In Rumble! Roar! Dinosaurs! by Matthew Reinhart the dinosaurs really come alive because they pop up from the page in three-dimensional form. The paper is fairly thick so the dinosaurs can withstand many pop-ups, though probably not much mauling by a two-year-old. My favorite was the angry purple triceratops that pops up, and is staring right at you, as if preparing to charge.
Ages 3-7 | Publisher: Robin Corey Books| August 7, 2012
Dinosaurs: In Your Face! by Dr. Robert T. Bakker comes with its own 3-D glasses to bring you dinosaurs that, like a pop-up, look like they’re charging off the page right into your room. With the glasses on, the world of dinosaurs is layered and rich, with trees and realistic renderings of dinosaurs. Dr. Bakker is a well-known vertebrate paleontologist, and the narrator of the book is a paleontologist, who, from his fossil findings, reconstructs what probably happened millions of years ago. For instance, the narrator dug up the footprints of a baby Apatosaurus. Close to the footprints, he also found tracks from a huge meat-eater, the Torvosaurus. The illustrations re-enact the findings of the paleontologist. (Thankfully, the book includes how to pronounce the dinosaur names). This book is full of information, including a time line on each page that shows when the specific dinosaur appeared.
Ages 3-7 | Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers| August 7, 2012
By Claire Lewellyn and Thea Feldman
Dinosaur World by Claire Lewellyn and Thea Feldman is part of a new beginning reader series launched by Kingfisher, an imprint of Macmillan. In Dinosaur World, we are transported to a dinosaur park, and in simple sentences, we ride a bus and peer out at a handful of dinosaurs, such as the Maiasaura, the Deinonychus and the Parasaurolophus. For each dinosaur, the book includes a “fact sheet,” which tells you the size, habitat, food, era in which the dinosaur lives and its danger rating. The book is considered a “Level 3:” Reading alone with some help, and that seems absolutely right.
Ages 5-8 | Publisher: Kingfisher| March 27, 2012
By Tracey Fern
What becomes of you if your name is Barnum Brown, named after the circus icon P.T. Barnum? In the nonfiction book, Barnum’s Bones: How Barnum Brown Discovered the Most Famous Dinosaur in the World, by Tracey Fern, we learn that Barnum, as a boy, spent hours collecting hundreds of fossils on his family’s Kansas farm—ancient coral, clams, snails, scallops. But what he really longed to find were dinosaur fossils. A good student at college, he was invited by his paleontology professor to spend the summers of 1894 and 1895 in South Dakota and Wyoming looking for fossils. Not long after that, he found bones of a Diplodocus longus and an Apatosaurus. The book is a wonderful account of a man with a quirky passion who lives to realize his dream.
Ages 5-9 | Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux| May 22, 2012
By Jon Surgal
Playfulness and rhymes carry the story line in Have You Seen My Dinosaur? by Jon Surgal. A little boy has lost his dinosaur and heads out to find it. The green dinosaur is there on every page—though the boy doesn’t see it, you do! So here’s a built in game of hide-and-seek to play with your dinosaur-loving kid.
Ages 4-6 | Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers| January 26, 2010
When a storm comes, full of lightening and thunder, a little boy becomes scared in Dinosaur Thunder, by Marion Dane Bauer. The adults in his life compare it to a big cat purring, angels bowling in heaven, and clouds bumping together. But the little boy knows better—these comparisons fall flat on his ears. It’s only when his older brother tells him the thunder is “only dinosaurs stomping around,” that the boy settles down. He knows all about dinosaurs! With this simile, he can finally imagine what is happening in the loud-sounding sky.
Ages 3-5 | Publisher: Scholastic Press| May 1, 2012
About the Reviewer
Nina Schulyer‘s first novel, The Painting, was nominated for the Northern California Book Award and was named a ‘Best Book’ by the San Francisco Chronicle. Her new novel, The Translator, published by Pegasus Books, released in July, 2013. She is the fiction editor for www.ablemuse.com and teaches creative writing at the University of San Francisco. For more information, visit: www.ninaschuyler.com.