Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Dinosaur Days - 5 Fierce Titles for Budding Paleontologists

It's happened. We've entered the seemingly inevitable phase that all parents of young boys somehow find themselves in - the dinosaur obsession.

It began simply enough, with an uptick in the number of dinosaur books Sprout was picking out at the library, and a request for Mommy to bring home "some more good books like those ones" when the much-enjoyed titles had to be returned. And then Sprout began choosing Dinosaur Train as his evening screentime pick. Then came the dinosaur figurines, and the coloring books, and the dinosaur themed birthday party (he was thrilled when his best friend followed suit). And before you know it, here we were discussing over breakfast the other morning, "What kind of birthday cake would a triceratops have?" (The answer, if you were wondering, is a cake shaped like a long-neck dinosaur. And vanilla, because triceratops don't care for chocolate.)

So here we are, and I know we're among friends because many of you probably either are in the same phase or have lived to tell the tale. Luckily for us, there are plenty of great books to choose from, both the factual and the fantastic, so Sprout can get his dino itch scratched without Mommy going insane trying to pronounce all those names (giganotosaurus, anyone?). I've picked out a few to highlight here, but this is by no means an exhaustive list - we have tons more over on our Pinterest board, if you need to round out your library list!

First up is a title that's a good beginning point for kids who are starting to be fascinated with these incredible creatures. Richard Byrne's The Really, Really, Really Big Dinosaur is all about friendship and sharing, with a side order of comeuppance for a very know-it-all character. One big dinosaur thinks he's pretty tough, but a very little dinosaur knows somebody tougher! The cartoony illustrations make this an accessible choice, and the dinos themselves are reminiscent of kids you'll see in every preschool classroom and on every playground. Sprout loved the surprise ending in this one - definitely a choice you'll want to reread once you're in on the joke. (He could hardly contain his glee on the second time through!)

Moving on up the spectrum is another title that's heavy on the humor but that satisfies kiddos' need to read about giant reptiles. Elise Broach's When Dinosaurs Came with Everything has been popping up on recommended lists ever since it came out, and no wonder - this title, engagingly illustrated by one of my favorite artists, David Small, has something for everyone. No kid likes to run errands, but on the day when every business in town is giving out free dinosaurs, one boy thinks a few extra stops sound great! (Mom's not so convinced.) The absurdity of ankylosaurs walking down Main Street and pterosaurs instead of balloons at the barber will delight young readers to no end. This one's a real winner, and perfect for storytime at home or in the classroom.

For Sprout's birthday, all he wanted was a book on dinosaurs. And he got several, the lucky little stinker. Of these, two have been in near-constant rotation for perusal in the car, at the doctor's office, on his bedroom floor. The first, See Inside the World of Dinosaurs by Alex Frith and Peter Scott, is appealing for lots of reasons: realistic pictures, flaps to lift, information galore, and best of all loads of action shots of critters eating and fighting and chasing. For kids who don't mind some grossness -- there are dead dinos here, people, so consider yourself warned -- this is a surefire hit, like so many Usborne books.

The second of Sprout's birthday gifts is one that hubs and I bought for him - National Geographic's Little Kids First Big Book of Dinosaurs. This is a terrific selection for kids who are at the stage of wanting to pore over pictures. Like all National Geographic selections the illustrations are big and glossy, which will thrill young dino-lovers to no end. And as you might expect, the text is jam-packed full of details and facts - did you know that pentaceratops liked to swim, for instance? (I didn't even know pentaceratops existed, if I'm being honest. Thank goodness for National Geographic to fill in these gaps in my education!)

The last title in our list is one of the most innovative books you're likely to see on this topic. Sharon Werner and Sarah Forss are absolutely amazing, and their dinosaur book Alphasaurs and Other Prehistoric Types isn't one you'll soon forget. The authors take us through the alphabet, one dino at a time, and each illustration of a given animal is made up of various sizes and styles of the letter of their name. So the Kentrosaurus, for example, is entirely built of the letter K, in different sizes. Sounds pretty bland but believe me, it's not - you'll have as much fun drooling over these images as your kid will. And there are tons of nifty facts included, plus some artful paper work besides. I'm tempted to put this one on my own holiday list!

What books do your young dino-fans adore? We're always looking for new titles to check out - would love to hear what you've read and enjoyed!


PragmaticMom said...

Love this list. My son was on a serious dino kick when he was three. I have such fond memories reading nothing but dinosaur books for an entire year!

Here's our list: http://www.pragmaticmom.com/2011/10/favorite-dinosaur-books/

We have the Usborne book overlap but our list is 5 years old.

Mary Kinser said...

Mia, that's a fantastic list! We'll be adding a few titles to our library list for sure. :)