In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Dinosaur picture books

Dear Annie,

Dinosaurs, dinosaurs -- so many different things to different people. 

Dinosaur books tend to come in two categories: one where dinosaurs are
the stand-ins for people and things and tend to get very rollicking.  The other tries to
convey some facts about the big old guys.

Dinosaurs as stand-ins for kids are what the Yolen/Teague How Do Dinosaurs... series is all about.  How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You? is one of the more recent ones, and it sounds like it's lacking in the strong behavioral message that comes with most of them.  The first,
How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night?
has dinosaurs acting out bad going-to-bed behavior in a way that many kids find hilarious:
Does a dinosaur slam his tail and pout?
Does he throw his teddy bear all about?
Does a dinosaur stomp his feet on the floor and shout: 'I want to hear one book more!'?
After detailing many wrong ways to go to bed, the book goes on to the right ways to say good night -- whisper, hug, kisses, etc.  It's a widely-loved book, by both parents and kids.  I feel a little grinch-like saying it's not one of my favorites.  A little too far into the preachy end of things.  I'd be curious what Eleanor thinks of it.  And, as you pointed out, all the books in this series have accurate dinosaur names.

Another book which includes scientific names, but has a great story-book plot is
Harry and the Bucketful of Dinosaurs
by Ian Whybrow. Harry finds a stash of plastic dinosaurs at his grandma's house, washes them off and identifies them all -- identifying dinosaurs is an important element of many kids' dinosaur fascinations. They go everywhere with him, in a bucket, until the day he loses them.  Getting them back involves Harry reciting their names -- it's a lovely ending.

Advances in paleontology have made a few old dinosaur classics out of date, but some new ones are filling the demand for dinosaur science.   
Oh, Say Can You Say Di-no-saur?
is part of a new series of science books for pre-schoolers, all written in Dr. Seuss meter.
Dinosaurs lived
on the earth long ago,
before you and me.
So how do we know?
From fossils!
Dinosaur teeth, eggs, and bone
got stuck in the muck.
Then that muck turned to stone.
I realize the rhymes can become mind-numbing, but the series -- called The Cat in the Hat's Learning Library -- conveys a lot of information well.

And I'll end with my current favorite dinosaur book:
When Dinosaurs Came with Everything
by Elise Broach.  A boy and his mother are doing errands, and  every business they visit (bakery, doctor, dentist, etc) is offering a free dinosaur with purchase.  So he ends up accumulating several full-size
live dinosaurs, which he takes home with him.  Much chaos results.  Great illustrations by David Small, and the story is a lot of fun.

Lots lots more, but there's a start.



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