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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Picture Books on Prehistoric Life: All About Dinosaurs

Either one likes dinosaurs, or one could care less. All the names and sizes and categorization didn't pull me (or my older child) in to make a passionate follower of these Mesozoic megafauna.

However, the younger child didn't escape the strong magnetic force of the dinosaurs. And, once he gets interested in something, we all end up learning about it despite our strong disinclination.

There are tons of books about dinosaurs, many of them are beautifully illustrated children's picture books which can satisfy the curious young minds. The collection here is just a small percentage of  non-fiction dinosaur-related books for a gentle introduction, after which one can easily find in-depth volumes to satisfy the need.

Non-fiction + poetry is a brilliant marriage. So is writing + illustrating. And a handful of insanely talented author-illustrators have consistently made reading fun by bringing out poetry picture books on such seemingly prosaic topics such as space, trees, tide pools, deep oceans, and of course, prehistoric life.

Here are two of my favorite picture book creators in this highly specialized category- Kurt Cyrus and Douglas Florian - who have made our family sit back and enjoy just about every book they each have created so far.

Tadpole Rex 
by Kurt Cyrus

What has Tyrannosaurus Rex got to do with frogs? For one thing, they co-existed a long time ago. Whereas one died out the other is still living. But when they did coexist, the muddy footprint of a T-Rex created a puddle in which our tadpole Rex starts to grow.

Deep in the goop of a long-ago swamp, a whopping big dinosaur went for a stomp. Stomp! went the dinosaur. Squish! went the goop. Up came the bubbles-Bloop.Bloop.Bloop.

With catchy rhythm that is Cyrus' trademark, plus his brilliant illustrations, makes this a fun read aloud book.

Stuck in the footprint with nowhere to go,surrounded by giants, Rex lay low.Mud was his camouflage, mud was his friend.But Rex wouldn't wallow in mud in the end...For somewhere inside him, deep in his core,there slumbered an inner tyrannosaur.

The kid loved it so much that when he was making a frog life-cycle book in school, he decided to add an extra page showing "Inner T-Rex" stage of the frog development!

The Voyage of Turtle Rex
by Kurt Cyrus

Shared here - a favorite at home. The kid got it for his birthday a couple of years ago.

[image source: ]

Prehistoric Poems and Paintings
by Douglas Florian

If there is a non-fiction book by Jenkins for any topic that might interest kids, there is an amusing  poetry book with amazing illustrations by Douglas Florian. Again, having read most of Florian's books, the kids has come to recognize the name and to expect a fun read no matter what the topic.

Twenty poems, each about a dinosaur, bringing out its special traits or distinguishing feature, plus glossary and information about museums and selected bibliography makes this a comprehensive book .

The poems are short and fun to read. Stegoceras - roof horn (not to be confused with Stegosaurus - roof lizard) is a crisp poem that focuses on this creatures distinctive dome-shaped head.

Thick head. Brick head. Hard head, too.Round head. Mound head. Odd head, you.Bone head. Stone head. Head like a dome.Bash head. Smash head. Then head home.

My favorite was the intro poem, The Age of Dinosaurs, setting up the scene.

The dinosaursFirst lived outdoorsDuring the time Triassic.While most died out,Some came aboutLater in the Jurassic.Then they evolved,As Earth revolved,In times known as Cretaceous.But now indoorsGreat dinosaursFill museum halls, spacious.

[image source: Simon & Schuster - view sample]

D is for Dinosaur: A Prehistoric Alphabet
by Todd Chapman

Sleeping Bear Press's Science Alphabet series with "A to Z Alphabet Books" has familiar format: short catchy verses, full-page color illustrations, plus a long, fact-filled sidebar that has worked successfully for many of the books in this series.

While the verses are a bit clunky in this book, the sidebar facts are interesting and thought-provoking. Questions like, "Could the Mesozoic swamps have been filled with the bellowing bugle of lovesick hadrosaurs?" accompany the factoid about dinosaurs with trumpet-like crests. When we read about duck-billed dinosaurs with built-in features for horn, it is interesting to speculate if it was to woo females and make mating calls, even if we can never be sure.

The Big Book of Dinosaurs 
By Dixon, Dougal

Kids have a lot of questions. Always. And, it is not always easy to answer them as parents. But, this book has some of the answers for dinosaur-related questions that can stumble an average adult.

From What is a dinosaur? to dino names and families, what the world was like during triassic/jurassic/cretaceous, separating myth from facts, including some possible illness and vulnerabilities of these seemingly invulnerable giants, and their extinction, the book presents nuggets in kid-friendly format with loads of pictures.

The Greatest Dinosaur Ever
by Brenda Z. Guiberson
illustrated by Gennardi Spirin

Which was the greatest dinosaur that ever lived?

Well, that depends on what we mean by "greatest". The book tries to answer this question in the voice of the dinos themselves, each one highlighting their salient and distinguishing features to claim the title.

I was the greatest. I was the tallest and the biggest herbivore. I had a long next with the highest reaches into the trees. The earth shook when I walked. I, Sauroposeidon, was the greatest dinosaur of them all.

Dinosaur Bones
by Bob Barner

The gorgeous collage illustrations makes this an attractive read for the younger readers. A factual statement followed by a brief para of related information makes this a fine material for gentle introduction to the world of dinosaurs.

Dinosaurs had teeth to bite and jaws to chew.
The shape of jaws and teeth help scientists find out if a dinosaur was a meat or a plant eater.
The rhymes are catchy and upbeat, and the illustrations are bold and streamlined. The book has some data on size, weight and dietary preferences of the dinosaurs introduced in the pages.

They had bones with disks and bones with points,
bones for running with sockets and joints.

Dinosaurs Roar, Butterflies Soar!
by Bob Barner

Another dinosaur book by Barner, this time exploring the coexistence of butterflies and dinosaurs in prehistoric times.

Butterflies flit from flower to flower spreading pollen, helping more trees grow, which contributed to high levels of oxygen, helping the animals grow large and heavy, and then, suddenly, dinosaurs were no more. The book also mentions that while dinosaurs went extinct, we still have the butterflies.

The format is similar to Dinosaur Bones - large double-page spread with one large typeface main sentence, with a brief para in small print exploring the idea further with facts. The best feature is, of course, the artwork.

Dinosaur More! A First Book of Dinosaur Facts
by Henrietta Stickland
illustrated by Paul Stickland

The subtitle says it all - a first book of facts, not an in-depth look. A dozen dinos are introduced, one dinosaur per spread. Facts like what they ate, how big they were etc are shared. Besides the usual suspects, there's hypsilophodon, compsognathus, ornithomimus, and giganotosaurus.

[image source: unless otherwise indicated, cover images are from]

[This post written especially for Saffron Tree's CROCUS 2014: Prehistoric Life and Ancient Civilizations]

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