Dinosaurs have always been a passion of mine, one which I can’t help but share with others. Growing up as a young earth creationist (YEC), however, I lacked an awareness of the available resources I could use to learn more about them. I mostly knew of whatever same old books my local library had in stock, or the offerings from YEC catalogs. As I became active in the online paleontological community, I slowly caught up on important books I had missed, and news that had passed me by (or trickled through in a very distorted fashion from YEC newsletters). So it comes as no surprise that when I became a father, I wished to buy only the best dinosaur books for my own kids, with an eye for the kind of quality and accuracy I could scarcely have imagined in my own childhood. However, personal experience has taught me that the gems amongst the children’s section tend to get buried by shelves and shelves of hastily published cash grabs. I began compiling a list of my favorites, and often talked my wife’s ear off when I discovered a particularly praiseworthy book. At her encouragement, I decided to put my product research to good use and created Dino Dad Reviews, a blog dedicated to promoting the best in children’s prehistory books! I’ve reviewed all sorts of books so far, but I’ve gathered a short list of my top five favorites here to help get you started. If you have a dinosaur-obsessed youngster in your life, you can’t go wrong with any of these!
I Am NOT a Dinosaur!
Many folks seem to use the word dinosaur to mean just any old prehistoric creature, which can lead to misunderstandings when attempting to learn more about them. I Am NOT a Dinosaur! helps to clear up confusion surrounding several famous prehistoric beasts. Its fun rhymes educate young readers on what does and does not into the titular category. A whole host of ancients animals declare to readers, “I Am NOT a Dinosaur!” before closing with some genuine members of the family. This one is sure to become a favorite bedtime story of any dinosaur lover!
This fun pop-up book takes a fantastic premise and more than delivers on it. Prehistoric Pets compares several popular pets to their prehistoric relatives, illustrated as pop-ups! I’m sure most readers probably know that parakeets can claim Velociraptor for their family tree. I doubt many know of their guinea pig’s bull-sized cousin, though! Fun surprises and lots of cool facts make this one a surefire hit with the kids.
For a book chock-full of denser information for older kids, I particularly enjoy Dinosaur Atlas by Anne Rooney. Featuring a wide range of dinosaurs and their contemporaries organized by their continent of origin, it provides a global overview of dinosaurs and the paleontology behind them. Not only do readers learn about individual dinosaur species, but they can also learn about the process of paleontology itself. It even has historical notes on people and events such as Mary Anning and “The Bone Wars.” The accurate, yet stylized illustrations really catch the eye as well, which are practically worth the purchase on their own.
When Fish Got Feet, When Bugs Were Big, & When Dinos Dawned
Dinosaurs are often characterized as the gateway into getting children interested in other STEM subjects, especially when it comes to learning about other, less-charismatic fossil organisms. Hannah Bonner’s “When” series takes a look at how the dinosaurs came to rule the Earth, which allows her to introduce readers to a wider view of the past. She manages to pack in a wide range of topics, all while remaining approachable to readers of all ages. It’s the sort of readability one would expect of a much more lightweight sort of book, and yet it never skimps on the details. Bonner’s cartoony art style only makes it all the more engaging. Originally published as three separate books, they have since been collected into a single volume for the reader’s convenience. The new book also includes some extra activities for young scientists to try at home.
Earth Before Us comic series
Carrying more than a hint of a Magic School Bus vibe, Abby Howard’s prehistoric comic trilogy is a particular favorite of mine. Readers follow Ronnie & Ms. Lernin as they travel through time to observe the changes to different species and environments. Each book focuses on a different era in Earth’s history: Dinosaur Empire! starts things off with a bang in the Mesozoic, Ocean Renegades! dives into the Paleozoic, and Mammal Takeover! caps it all off with the Cenozoic. Howard uses the graphic novel format to take a lot of information and condense it into a much more entertaining read. The text may still be a bit dense for younger schoolchildren, but I can attest it appeals to all ages otherwise.
I consider these five books must-haves for any young dinosaur lover’s collection. They all strike the perfect balance between entertainment and education, each with their own unique approach. Most of them also provide suggested reading at the end which can help lead budding scholars to other helpful resources to further their passion. I’m confident readers will enjoy them just as much as my own children have (and myself, of course)! Happy reading!
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