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.
Lulu and the Brontosaurus by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Lane Smith
Lulu was a pain, a real pain. She demanded that her parents give her everything she wanted. And if they didn’t? Then she threw a fit, screaming, throwing herself on the floor and kicking her feet. Until her parents agreed to give her exactly what she wanted. But that all changed when Lulu demanded a brontosaurus for a pet for her birthday. Her parents tried to explain that a brontosaurus was huge and wild and not suitable, but Lulu threw a tantrum. However, this time it did not work. So Lulu set off on her own to find herself a brontosaurus. As she entered the forest, she sang herself a song about getting a brontosaurus for a pet. Going deeper into the forest, she encountered some wild animals but even they could not scare her from her mission. Eventually, Lulu does find a brontosaurus deep in the forest, but will he be the ideal pet she has been expecting?
A great beginning chapter book, young readers will enjoy the over-the-top humor that will keep them laughing. The short chapters will also help keep reluctant readers going as will the large number of black-and-white illustrations from the master Lane Smith. The illustrations hearken back to Syd Hoff’s Danny and the Dinosaur with the smiling brontosaurus, but are edgier as well with great perspectives.
Viorst has obviously had fun playing with the book format here. She opens the book saying that of course she knows that humans and dinosaurs have never existed at the same time! It sets the tone perfectly for the story itself which is filled with humor throughout. Various fonts are used throughout the book, some for singing, others for effect in reading. Later in the book, the chapters are numbered by the half chapter just for fun and to laugh about the very short chapters of the book. And finally, the book ends with different endings for the reader to choose from.
A winning early chapter book, this has the dinosaur appeal combined with great illustrations and clever writing. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from book received from Atheneum.
Dinosaur vs. the Potty by Bob Shea
Dinosaur does not need to use the potty. He makes lemonade and wins! No need to use the potty. He splashes in the sprinkler and wins! No need for the potty. He drinks lots of juice and wins! No potty for him. He plays in the swimming pool and wins! No potty. He splashes in puddles and his victory dance becomes something else instead. Now the question is whether Dinosaur can make it to the potty in time!
A delight to read aloud, this book takes child humor and brings it to potty training. Leaving going to the potty until too late is a tale that every parent knows far too well. Shea uses his competitive framework to great effect here with Dinosaur winning and roaring all the way to the potty. Used in a group setting, preschoolers will enjoy participating in the roars and the cheers for Dinosaur. Shea’s illustrations are wide-lined, bright-colored and raucous. They match the text of the book perfectly, adding to the child appeal and the humor.
A great choice for potty training children, this will also be appreciated by children beyond that phase thanks to its appeal. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Dinosaur Mountain: Digging into the Jurassic Age by Deborah Kogan Ray
Ray returns with another great picture book biography. This time she turns her talents to the story of Earl Douglass and the “Bone Wars” of the turn of the century where paleontologists competed to find the big dinosaur skeletons. Though the biggest finds had been made in Colorado and Wyoming, Douglass followed his instincts and headed to northeastern Utah. The book chronicles his discoveries as he worked the site through prose as well as excerpts from his personal letters. It also tells of the problems with protecting the area and funding that Douglass faced later in his career and that culminated in Woodrow Wilson creating the Dinosaur National Monument.
Ray’s writing is an invitation to learn more. Filled with interesting and enticing facts, she tells the story of the person as well as the accomplishments. Children will love the details about how a dig site works and the excitement of the big finds. They will also learn about the importance of doing what you love and following your gut instinct.
Ray’s art adds much to story, from detailed explanations of Jurassic strata and paleontology tools to her larger paintings that tell the story of discovery. Her large vistas bring the setting clearly to life too. The book ends with a listing of the dinosaurs found at the site, a map of the Monument, more information on Douglass and his benefactor Andrew Carnegie, a glossary, and a bibliography.
Highly recommended, this book will be enjoyed by children who enjoy dinosaurs and history. Ideal for reading before visiting the Dinosaur National Monument, this book can also be used to inspire children to make their own discoveries about the world around them. Appropriate for ages 7-10.
Reviewed from copy received from Farrar Straus Giroux.