Ally-Saurus & the First Day of School by Richard Torrey (InfoSoup)
Ally loves dinosaurs, so when she heads off to her first day of school she is hoping to find lots of other kids who love dinosaurs too. But Ally seems to be the only one who is chomping her snack like a dinosaur or answering questions with dinosaur answers. As she starts to talk with the other kids though, she discovers the things that they love too. But some of the kids are not very friendly, like the bossy threesome who loves princesses the best and who don’t let Ally sit at their table during lunch. So Ally sits by herself. She is joined quickly though by other children who want to sit with her and they love dinosaurs and dragons and lunchboxes and lions. Soon she has a group of kids to play with at recess, who are willing to run wild and roar along with her. Even the princesses who snubbed her end up playing along too.
Torrey captures the joy of imaginative play as a child where that subject is all the child thinks about and their major focus of their day. Ally faces her first day of school with positive feelings which is good to see. Torrey doesn’t overplay the negative encounter with other children in the class either, allowing it to unfold naturally and be remedied in the same way. Ally’s use of roaring and munching to make friends adds a silly element that is very welcome in the book, and it also shows the other children who seek her out what kind of girl she is.
Torrey’s art adds to the imaginative play piece of the story. With pastel and black and white illustrations, the imaginative piece looks as if a child drew it on with crayon. As Ally learns more about her classmates they too get their own crayon elements, so the boy interested in astronauts gets a helmet and the princesses get crowns. It’s a clever way to indicate that these are imaginary but still there
A positive and humorous look at the first day of school, this is perfect for sending your own imaginative little one off or for sharing during that first week of school. Appropriate for ages 4-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Sterling Children’s Books and Raab Associates.
Mad Scientist Academy: The Dinosaur Disaster by Matthew McElligott (InfoSoup)
Released July 7, 2015.
In this graphic novel for elementary-aged children, facts about dinosaurs mingle with a great adventure. A new class of young monsters are enrolled at the Mad Scientist Academy. On their first day of school, they meet Dr. Cosmic, a teacher at the academy who has managed to lose the school pet, Oscar, a dinosaur. The children are sent to find Oscar and set off on an adventure through the various exhibits that Dr. Cosmic has been working on. The focus of the exhibits is dinosaurs and there are mechanical dinosaurs throughout who are set to be tame. Unfortunately, their setting is accidentally set to live mode and all of the dinosaurs start acting as if they are real. It is up to the students to figure out how to escape the rampaging T-Rex and find Oscar too.
McElligott has a great feel for pacing and humor in this graphic novel. There are small touches of humor throughout the book, from one students stinky lunch to the out-of-control exhibits that have too much lava and are a bit too effective in showing meteors. The book is thoughtfully designed too with each monster character having characteristics that come into play in the story line. The lizard boy uses his long tongue to reach something, the insect girl uses her wings to remove smoke from the room, and much more. The insertion of the dinosaur information is done in a light way and includes plenty of illustrations to keep the information accessible and fun.
The art is very effective throughout the book. The characters are diverse enough to be recognizable even in images where they are smaller. Double-page spreads of the full exhibit show the largeness of both the exhibit and the dinosaurs too. Dramatic moments are nicely captured and the timing of funny events is done very effectively.
Get this into the hands of children growing out of Magic School Bus books. The mix of graphic novel, information and fantasy elements will find lots of young fans. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Crown Books for Young Readers and Edelweiss.
Oliver and His Egg by Paul Schmid
Oliver from Oliver and His Alligator returns in a second book. While on the playground, Oliver finds an egg, really a large smooth rock, that he imagines will hatch into a big orange-polka-dotted dinosaur. He would have a new friend and they would go on adventures together. As Oliver dreams of their adventures, the other children find that he is sitting on the “egg” waiting for it to hatch. So he tells them of his enormous dinosaur-sized dream and they all have to find eggs of their own.
Schmid’s picture book is simple and cheery. Oliver is a creative little boy, inventing his own worlds. The book also shows that all children can be creative and use their imaginations. Just as in the first book, the text is minimal, offering less than a sentence on each page. It suits a book that is about imagination to have so much left unsaid.
The illustrations are simple too. Clearly drawn characters are done in simple lines with small touches of color. They are combined with the rock “eggs” that are photographed stones, giving them a weight that the light illustrations don’t have. It’s a dynamic combination on the page.
A cheerful follow-up picture book, this second outing for Oliver is great fun for toddlers. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Fossil by Bill Thomson
Thomson, author of Chalk, returns with a book that once again mixes fantasy with photorealistic art. In this picture book, a boy is walking along the water with his dog. He finds an interesting rock but then trips and the rock goes flying and breaks open revealing a fossil inside. As he picks it up and discovers the fossilized fern inside the rock, ferns start to grow around him. His dog digs up another rock and when the boy breaks that one open, a huge dragonfly comes to life. The dragonfly lands on another rock and readers will see the claws on the fossil before the shadow appears. With his dog in danger, the boy has to think fast about how to save him.
Done in a wordless format, Thomson’s art is the real draw here. His photorealism makes for images that are worth lingering over. He also uses unique perspectives throughout the book, such as the image on the cover. The books has the universal appeal of a sandy shore littered with large stones and drenching sunlight. That same sunlight somehow becomes threatening once the dinosaur appears, almost spotlighting the danger and creating deep menacing shadows.
Vivid and beautiful, this book offers a dynamic take on fossils and prehistoric life. Appropriate for ages 3-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
How Big Were Dinosaurs? by Lita Judge
Whenever you think of dinosaurs, they are like the one on the cover of the book. Huge, green and either placid plant eaters or ferocious meat eaters. This nonfiction picture book takes a look at dinosaurs that are quite different. There is the microraptor who is the size of a chicken. The long-named Leaellynasaura stood as tall as an emperor penguin and lived in that same climate. Of course there were bigger dinosaurs too. The akylosaurus stood as tall as an SUV. There were dinosaurs with huge claws that ate plants, ones with armor and still others with odd parts of the body that no one understands yet.
Judge carefully chooses her dinosaurs in this book. Understanding that the littlest dinosaurs lack the vibrant punch of the huge ones, the book quickly changes to the more imposing creatures. She shares just enough about each dinosaur to make the book readable. In fact, this is one nonfiction picture book about dinosaurs that could be shared at a storytime or aloud in a unit. Judge packs lots of fascinating facts into the book. It ends with the science behind figuring out what dinosaurs used to look like and a fold-out page with all of the dinosaurs in the book shown next to each other with lots of numbers and facts.
Judge’s playful illustrations are great fun. Throughout the book, she uses humans to show the scale of the dinosaurs as well as other animals. The humans don’t just stand next to the dinosaurs, they interact and react to them. I particularly enjoyed the image of the woman batting at a dinosaur with a broom. It’s those little touches of humor that suit this book so well.
Readable, fun and filled with science, this book on dinosaurs will be a welcome addition to those crowded shelves. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.
Rawr! by Todd H. Doodler
Meet Rex, a very polite and well-behaved dinosaur, who is here to tell you that being a dinosaur in modern human society is hard. He’s bigger than everyone else in his class, even his teachers. He doesn’t fit in a desk. He isn’t good at hide-and-seek. And he is so big that everyone thinks he is scary. But really, Rex isn’t scary at all. He is helpful, polite and even has a great (big) smile. What everyone should remember is that when Rex gives a really big “Rawr!” he is trying to say hello. So don’t be scared of dinosaurs, they just might be as friendly as Rex.
Doodler has created as story that simple and straight forward, making it perfect for very small children. He has inserted plenty of humor into the story, which will be a welcome diversion for both parents and children. Rex is a character that pops off of the page with his energy and his size. Doodler’s art has great appeal and is filled with bright colors encased in thick black lines.
Expect this to be a new favorite at bedtime! Appropriate for ages 1-3.
Reviewed from copy received from Scholastic.
Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems
Willems never seems to miss with his books and this one is a real treat. Think of chocolate-stuffed little girl bonbons sort of treat! Here the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears is changed so that you have three dinosaurs instead. But there’s another really big difference, the three dinosaurs are most certainly NOT setting a trap for Goldilocks. And those three huge bowls of chocolate pudding are just a coincidence, as well as the open front door. The ladder to help her reach the pudding is not part of the trap either. All of those noises in the woods are also not dinosaurs arguing about when to pounce, they are the wind. Even Goldilocks, who never notices anything, starts to realize that something odd is going on in her story, but not before the trap is sprung!
The tone of this book is really what makes it work so very well. It’s the narrator explaining what is happening by using a sarcastic tone and explaining what is not happening. Thanks to the tone, children will immediately understand that something is afoot, though the book is insisting that nothing at all is wrong. It’s a delight to read aloud, because as always Willem’s books have the perfect pacing for sharing.
The illustrations are classic Willems as well. Pigeon and Piggie would be right at home in these pages too. The illustrations too have small touches. Make sure you read the welcome mats and the end pages.
Another fantastic read from Mo Willems. Add this to your dinosaur story times or units on twisted fairy tales. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Balzer + Bray.
Barnum’s Bones: How Barnum Brown Discovered the Most Famous Dinosaur in the World by Tracey Fern, illustrated by Boris Kulikov
Barnum Brown was fascinated with fossils from the time he was a toddler following behind his father’s plow. His collection got so large, it outgrew his bedroom and he was forced to move out to the laundry house with his finds. In college, Barnum got to go on digs in the summers of 1894 and 1895 in South Dakota and Wyoming. Barnum got a reputation for being a great bone hunter, collecting more than 1400 pounds of bones! The American Museum of Natural History in New York City didn’t have a dinosaur on display, so they hired Barnum to do fossil digs for the museum. Barnum continued to prove he could find bones, but he never found a new species, even though others were discovering them. All that changed when he found a huge bone, discovering the first T. Rex.
This book is science and hard work made fascinating and cool. I appreciated the fact that this is not just a book about Barnum’s great find, but also all of the determination and time that it took to make that find. Readers travel along with Barnum through the heat and mosquitoes to find bones. The amazing hauls that he made before finding T. Rex are mind-boggling. The persona of Barnum is an interesting one too. His dandy clothes, wearing a fur coat and nice shoes on digs makes for an even more fascinating scientist.
Kulikov’s illustrations use glowing outlines of the dinosaurs being discussed to show readers the form of the dinosaur. What could have been a frustrating part of the book becomes all the more intriguing and inviting. His illustrations are playful, contrasting dusty old-fashioned colors with the bolder colors of the night sky and burning campfires.
This is a book that will inspire children to search for their own fossils, whether they are as big as a T. Rex or not. Appropriate for ages 7-9.
Reviewed from library copy.
Caveman, A.B.C. Story by Janee Trasler
Take a prehistoric trip through the alphabet in this funny picture book! This book tells the story of a caveman’s adventures solely through pictures and a few alphabetical words. It starts with an acorn that both the caveman and a squirrel are after. They are scared by a bear into a cave where a dinosaur was living. A bit later, the caveman makes friends with an odd little creature who had been trapped in some ice. Unfortunately, the big green dinosaur appears again and chases them around, forcing them to leap onto vines and swing away. But the book can’t end before one final uproarious slapstick moment which leads all the way too the Zzzz at the end.
This story is told only in 26 words, so that means that the illustrations are what really make this book work so well. Filled with a zany cartoon style, the pictures are action-filled and great fun. The huge green dinosaur may pursue the caveman in the book, but readers will notice the rounded teeth and the big smile long before the caveman does.
A fast-paced and funny alphabet book that will do well with young dinosaur fans. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Also reviewed on Jen Robinson’s Book Page.
The Voyage of Turtle Rex by Kurt Cyrus
Follow the story of a baby sea turtle starting with her hatching under the sand. But there is something very special about this little turtle, she’s growing up surrounded by dinosaurs! So what is a little turtle to do to survive? She’s got to find safety and then grow, grow as big as she can. She eventually grows into an enormous two-ton archelon. Eventually something inside her calls her to return to the shore, so she leaves the safety of the silt at the bottom and heads back to land. There she digs a nest for her eggs and buries them before returning to the sea. The book then talks about modern shelled animals who are descendants of the great prehistoric sea turtles.
Cyrus, author of Tadpole Rex, has added another thrilling book that extends the landscape of the dinosaurs to include more creatures. Here sea turtles are celebrated in rhymes that make the book very entertaining and fun to read. Cyrus offers just the right mix of scientific fact and story line, keeping the book anchored in fascinating science but also fast-moving.
His illustrations are dramatic as the tiny turtle struggles to survive at sea after a harrowing crawl to the water near dinosaurs. All of the many predators around her add to the interest and excitement both in the text and the illustrations. Cyrus uses bold lines, effective textures and a surprisingly soft color palette to create the images.
Perfect for both dinosaur and turtle fans, this book is sure to find an eager audience in elementary and public libraries. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from library copy.
Also reviewed by Wrapped in Foil.