Monday, November 3, 2008

Paleontology 101

What kid doesn't love dinosaurs? After all, they are fascinating. Gigantic, fierce, and deliciously scary, without ever being any real threat at all, thanks to the vast separation of time. Best of all, we know enough to dig up immense bones and create museum exhibits to fuel a child's imagination, enough to study them and learn about their lives and eating habits, yet they retain a sense of mystery, because there are still plenty of things we don't know and probably never will. If that doesn't get your sense of wonder stirring, I don't know what would. So it is that they are also a favourite theme in kindergarten classes, and your child may well come home telling you all about which have long necks and eat plants.

A great way to increase a child's interest in storytime is to tap into his/her other interests, and there are plenty of great dino titles to do the trick. (They are always much-requested among visits of younger classes, too.) This way, you can indulge your child's obsession, keep them focused as you read, and brush up on your own dino knowledge a bit, too. After all, if you want to be the cool parent, you'd better know your Compsognathus from your Pachycephalosaurus.

Dinosaur Roar, by Paul Stickland

This is a beginner for the milder mannered, for sure, as it is downright cute. Roly-poly, sweet-looking dinos frolick around to illustrate various opposites - not fare for the fan of the fearsome. Yet, it is a favourite of mine for using with young children because it is funny, uses adjectives you never find in any other opposite book, and I've never met a class who didn't love it.

Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs, by Byron Barton

This book is a simple one, using Barton's typically bold illustrations, but walks in general terms through some of the different types of dinosaur types. It doesn't use names in the text, but talks about how different groups of dinosaurs lived or looked, a good level for the budding dino enthusiast. The specific dinosaurs and their names are found on the endpapers, where I found that he used some more obscure dinos, as well as the usual suspects - Stegosaurus, Triceratops, and the like.

Danny and the Dinosaur, by Syd Hoff

This classic beginner reader holds its appeal well, as does the fantasy of playing with a real dinosaur - but a friendly plant-eater, please. Here, a dinosaur (an Apatosaurus, by the looks of things) comes to life on a museum visit, and her and Danny leave the museum for a day of fun. They help people on the way, too, no doubt leaving a few pacemakers working hard. Danny would love to take the dino home as a pet, but in the end, the dinosaur must go back to the museum, and promises that they can play again another day. A sweet, cute dino and simple drawings with a cartoon feel make this a hit.

My Dinosaur, by Mark Weatherby

This book is so sweet, it's a dino bedtime story. It reprises the fantasy of having a dino of one's own to play with, but here, the dinosaur appears at a young girl's window at bedtime, and takes her for a ride through the cool, dark forest. Their moonlight adventure is quite short and ends with her home asleep and, of course, possibly dreaming. The illustrations are of a softness that give the whole thing a dreamlike, foggy quality, and are really, very lovely. This one won't give anyone nightmares.

Older children may enjoy some of the more complicated dinosaur stories out there, and the hard-core dino enthusiast will no doubt follow them, too. They are, essentially, both more in-depth and detailed versions of the "and I have a dinosaur of my very own!" fantasy, Carrick's having more realistic dinosaurs, and Joyce's employing his usual fantastic retro-futuristic, ready-for-movies feel. Try:

Patrick's Dinosaurs, by Carol Carrick [and other in series]

Dinosaur Bob and His Adventures With the Family Lazardo, by William Joyce

Don't forget to also check Dewey number 567 for simpler non-fiction books by Ailiki, Bernard Most, and books in the True series. These are a must and will feed the curiosity of even the most serious dino lover, while avoiding the really graphic gore of some of the dino books for older kids. They may seem a bit heavy, but studies have shown that children will read at a dramatically higher reading level when reading about something they love, so encourage them to explore books that you might think are too much for them, anyhow. You never know just how much they might be getting out of them!


a dinosaur song! Sung to the tune of Three Blind Mice...

One, two, three, count with me
One, two, three, count with me
Triceratops had three big horns
'Cause that's the way that he was born,
One, two, three; One, two, three.

Dig up these and other great dinosaur tales at your local public library!

Originally posted on MommyBlogsToronto/Better Than a Playdate.

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