Bookishness, Mamaishness

Help Wanted: Personal Paleontologist

Y’all. This is how I feel when Bethany asks me a dinosaur-related question:

Clara hollers.

In truth, I was pretty obsessed with dinosaurs at her age, so I get the attraction. (Of course, back then, we didn’t have Dinosaur Train.) I also went to preschool at a museum that had a huge exhibit of dinosaur fossils, so I was seeing ‘real’ dinosaurs every week.

Not only is she obsessed, and not only does she have lots of questions, but it turns out that lots of things that I learned about dinosaurs have been disproved. It also turns out that some of the more out-there theories from my childhood have gained a lot of traction thanks to improved DNA research and whatnot. That whole birds are dinosaurs thing? Yeah, there’s a lot of evidence to support it. Have you looked at a chicken’s foot lately? Maybe we should have noticed the link sooner…

Anyway, finding quality dinosaur books has been quite the challenge. I desperately need these books, because Bethany lapped me in dinosaur knowledge months ago, so I need to find ways to feed her addiction and teach myself some new information. Equally, I wanted something reasonably accessible to a non-reading four year old. These are the two we’ve invested in so far, but I’m definitely on the prowl for more. Suggestions GLADY accepted!

First Big Book of Dinosaurs

This was one of the first books I found, and I recommend it wholeheartedly. Little Kids’ First Big Book of Dinosaurs, by National Geographic, contains all the best features of quality non-fiction. It has a visual table of contents, index, sidebars, and (very importantly) a useable pronunciation key for every single dinosaur. It also has the accuracy and detail you’d expect from National Geographic.

It’s rather encyclopedic in approach, though the dinosaurs are listed by size, not alphabetically. It also shares cases where scientists are currently unclear or unsure about a particular fact, which I love. The scientific vocabulary is there, but it’s not so overwhelming that preschoolers lose interest. My favorite feature is that each dinosaur is shown in a tiny graphic so that its size is relative to a human’s size. This makes things much more clear than just saying that something was 65 feet long – how long is that, anyway?

great dinosaur book for preschoolers

I hesitated to buy this book because Bethany is so sensitive and the cover is frightening. Fortunately, I plunged ahead, because this one has a lot of information about geologic time, fossils, paleontology, and other creatures living at the time of dinosaurs – it can answer a lot of questions that I can’t.

Discover More: Dinosaurs does have a fair number of pages dedicated to specific dinosaurs, but it goes into detail in other areas that the National Geographic book doesn’t address. It has spreads dedicated to types of fossils (including coprolites, always a favorite), types of skull structure, the excavation of Sue the Tyrannosaurus rex, and modern relatives of dinosaurs.

Both books mix computer-generated illustrations with photographs to make the dinosaurs seem as real as possible without unnecessary gore. Some of the dinosaurs are, obviously, pretty frightening, so my sensitive kiddo skips certain pages. That is also part of the appeal of both books; you can read a page here and a page there without losing any sort of thread or overall story. Heck, that’s the way I prefer to read books like this!

In light of the fact that we don’t know a paleontologist (though you’d best believe I’m now a fan of Dr. Scott on Facebook), I’m going to keep looking for more great books. Feel free to share the ones you love! In the meantime…

T Rex

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