Of all the blocks, puzzles, puppets, trains, and other toys in our library children’s department, I think the set of plastic dinosaurs ranks at the top for most boys. They (the boys, not the dinosaurs) come bounding up the stairs (followed a few minutes later by mom or dad, breathing hard and mumbling about the elevator), race to the play ring, and a few seconds later we hear “Raaarrr! Grrrrr!” as the dinosaurs re-engage their millennia-old battles.
And, of course, dinosaur books are equally a huge hit with many boys. There are plenty of non-fiction ones, but here are some picture book dinosaur stories that I think are especially good.
Captain Raptor and the Moon Mystery, by Kevin O’Malley (lexile: NA; AR book level: 3.9; 32 pp)
Take Star Trek, trade Captain Kirk for a T-Rex, and you’ve got Captain Raptor! He’s the fearless leader of the starship Megatooth, who together with his intrepid crew patrols the skies of the planet Jurassica. In this episode, a mysterious object has landed on one of the planet’s moons, and Captain Raptor and his crew go to investigate. After narrowly escaping several dangerous situations (“Could this be the end of Captain Raptor and his fearless crew?”), they encounter the aliens and … well, you’ll have to discover the rest for yourself.
Patrick O’Brien’s pictures are awesome, from the Indiana Jones-ish cover to the big cartoon panel images inside. The dinosaurs are big and bold, and they’ve got plenty of fancy sci-fi gadgets to play with. And if you like this one, you’ll want to get the sequel, Captain Raptor and the Space Pirates. (I hope there will be more!)
When Dinosaurs Came With Everything, by Elise Broach (lexile: 380; AR book level: 2.5; 40 pp)
It looks like another BORING day of running errands with Mom, until a young boy discovers that today — and only today — you get a free DINOSAUR — a REAL dinosaur — with everything! With a dozen doughnuts at the bakery! Instead of a sticker at the doctor’s! When you get a haircut at the barbershop! The boy is ecstatic — his mom almost frantic — as they go through town collecting an entourage of saurian behemoths.* The boy assures his mom that they can live in the backyard, they eat anything, and he’ll do all the work. So home they go, where the ever-resourceful Mom eventually finds a way to bring even dinosaurs into the family.
The story is short, clever, imaginative fun. David Small’s illustrations add lots of humorous elements — you’ll want to take time to study them as you read this with your young dinosaur enthusiasts.
*’Saurian behemoths’ is much more fun to say than ‘big lizards’.
Chalk, by Bill Thomson (lexile: NA; AR book level: NA; 40 pp)
This engaging, dramatic wordless picture book will fire the imagination of even preschoolers, who will find they can “read” the story without knowing a single letter.
One rainy day, three children head to the playground, where they discover a bag of sidewalk chalk hanging from the mouth of dinosaur riding toy. One girl draws a sun; immediately, the rain stops and blue sky appears. Another draws butterflies, which spring to life. When the third draws a dinosaur, however, things get a little adventurous. Fortunately, some clever use of the magic chalk saves the day – and the chalk is left for others to find. Open this with your little ones, allow them to tell the story, and then imagine what might happen if they were the next ones to stumble across the chalk.
Thomson’s pictures are amazingly realistic, portraying the action from various perspectives, and make the story (like the dinosaur) come alive. This is my favorite wordless picture book, and always a hit for story times.
Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs, by Giles Andreae (lexile: NA; AR book level: 3.6; 32 pp)
How about a book that combines those perennial boy-favorites, dinosaurs AND pirates?! In this tribute to imagination, young Flinn steps into the supply closet at school one day, only to discover a sobbing pirate, Captain Stubble. His ship, it seems, has been stolen by pirate dinosaurs! Flinn and three friends agree to help him recover it, and they set sail out the back of the supply closet, Stubble letting Flinn take over as captain. (Stubble would rather be the cook.) After a daring chase they catch and board the stolen vessel — but will brave Captain Flinn be able to defeat the T-Rex captain in a one-on-one sword battle? (Don’t worry, moms — no dinosaurs are harmed in the telling of this story.)
Also in our library system:
Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs: Missing Treasure
And in the series, but not in our libraries:
Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs: The Magic Cutlass
Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs: Smuggler’s Bay
How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? by Jane Yolen (lexile: NA; AR book level: 1.6; 40 pp)
Parents will recognize that all the books in this series have a point: that there are proper ways for kids to go to bed, behave at school, eat their food, clean their rooms, etc. Kids, however, will simply love the big, bright, colorful pictures of favorite dinosaurs acting up (or acting well) among regular-sized human family and friends. How can you not laugh at a T-Rex puckering up for a good-night kiss, or an enormous Stegosaurus crammed into a little bed? The cadenced rhyming text is fun to read aloud:
“How does a dinosaur say good night
when Papa comes in to turn off the light?
Does a dinosaur slam his tail and pout?
Does he throw his teddy bear all about?”
There are quite a few books in the series, some in board book format. Our library system includes:
- How Do Dinosaurs Clean Their Rooms?
- How Do Dinosaurs Count to Ten?
- How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food?
- How Do Dinosaurs Get Well Soon?
- How Do Dinosaurs Laugh Out Loud?
- How Do Dinosaurs Learn Their Colors?
- How Do Dinosaurs Learn to Read?
- How Do Dinosaurs Love Their Cats?
- How Do Dinosaurs Love Their Dogs?
- How Do Dinosaurs Play With Their Friends?
- How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You?
- How Do Dinosaurs Say Merry Christmas?
- How Do Dinosaurs Eat Cookies?
- How Do Dinosaurs Go Up and Down?
You can find the current list of all in our library system, including some narrated on DVD, by clicking here.