There are a lot of picture books featuring dinosaurs but only a handful that use an entertaining story to share facts about dinosaurs.
Most of the books I found are either illustrated non-fiction or stories that just happen to involve dinosaurs without sharing much factual information. Here are some of my favorites.
I’m Bad and I’m Big!, by Kate McMullan: Even the youngest dino-fans will enjoy these two tales. McMullan captures the voice of these two dinosaurs (a Tyrannosaurus Rex and an unidentified Sauropod) in vivid language. The bright, bold illustrations will thrill youngsters. There is a surprising amount of facts woven into these deceptively simple stories. Of the books I’ve found, these two are my favorite and I wish an author would do the same at a higher reading level.
Smithsonian’s Prehistoric Pals: This series of books follows a dinosaur throughout a “typical day”, usually involving searching for food, encountering other dinosaurs, and surviving in the natural elements. The life-and-death narratives and hyper-realistic illustrations make up for the bland language.
Oh, Say Can You Say Di-no-saur? (Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library), by Bonnie Worth: What distinguishes this book from other non-fiction entries is the rhyming text. The rhymes create a fun rhythm and help children remember the facts about the many dinosaurs named and described.
The Magic School Bus in the Time of the Dinosaurs, by Joanna Cole: Part of The Magic School Bus series, this book has Ms. Frizzles’s class taking an impromptu field trip right before their families arrive for class night. During a visit to a dig site, run by one of “The Frizz’s” friends, the class travels back in time to find Maiasaura nests. When they go too far back, they hit the major periods of prehistory that were home to dinosaurs and learn how the shape of the continents, the flora and fauna, and the weather changed over time, as well as about different dinosaurs. As usual, the narrative is a thin pretext for presenting the information but my children are fans of every book in the series that they’ve read. This is one of the more comprehensive books about dinosaurs available at this level.
Dino Pets and Dino Pets Go to School, by Lynn Plourde (ages 3-6): Young kids enjoy categorizing and comparing similar items so these two stories are a perfect fit for kindergartners. In both books, a young boy explores adopting different types of dinosaurs as pets. The dinosaurs are identified by superlatives: the fastest, smartest, scariest, longest, tallest, biggest, widest, loudest, etc. At the end, the author identifies each expertly illustrated dinosaur and explains the evidence and reasoning behind the selection. I appreciate that Plourde acknowledges that the ever-shifting field of paleontology may make some of his information (especially labels like “biggest” or “tallest”) out of date. One quibble: I wish the name and information about each dinosaur appeared in a box on its page in the story, instead of as part of an appendix.
Can I Bring My Pterodactyl to School, Ms. Johnson? and others, by Lois G. Grambling: Like many of the other selections, the charm of these books is mostly in the silly premise. Children will enjoy the whimsy and may be inspired to learn more about the dinosaurs but they will have to look elsewhere for factual information.
Mrs. Toggle and the Dinosaur, by Robin Pulver: A simple misunderstanding leads Mrs. Toggle and her class to learn more about dinosaurs so they can welcome their new classmate. This is a funny and sweet story and children will learn a little bit about dinosaurs as the class researches to make a comfortable place for the new dinosaur…who turns out to be a shy girl named “Dinah Sawyer”.
How Big Were the Dinosaurs?, by Bernard Most: This non-fiction book has relatable illustrations that show the sizes of various dinosaurs.
If the Dinosaurs Came Back, by Bernard Most: My daughter was captivated by this book speculating how useful dinosaurs might be if they came back. I would prefer if the jobs related more to facts about the dinosaurs. However, it is a nice springboard for an imaginative discussion and some drawing or story-writing for children.
When Dinosaurs Came with Everything, by Elise Broach: On the usual errands, a boy finds that instead of lollipops, balloons, or stickers, he gets a dinosaur with everything! The story is silly, fluffy fun but the illustrations do a good job of conveying the size and bulk of the prehistoric creatures and will definitely fascinate young children.