(Published in the Raleigh News and Observer, 5/29/16)
There’s something about the hugeness and power of dinosaurs that capture young children’s whimsy. And this year there are books for preschoolers to early school-goers that will please them enormously.
Janeen Brian and Ann James have written two companion dino books for young readers: “I’m a Hungry Dinosaur” and “I’m a Dirty Dinosaur” (both from Kane Miller, ages 2-5). Thick pages hold up to many readings of the rhyming, sound-filled, movement-packed books. “I’m a hungry dinosaur with a hungry tum. I’ll shake and stir and mix and beat and make a cake that’s yum. Shake, shake, stir, stir make a cake that’s yum.”
The refrains in both books appear in large primary-colored letters, just right for repeating or early reading.
Jim Benton’s board book, “Where Did All the Dinos Go?” (Scholastic, ages 2-4) sets out with the titular question, and rhyming leads the way to discovering the dinosaurs in the illustrations. Garbed to match Western, urban and other settings, the dinosaurs’ comic appearances make it as easy to smile as to find them.
Stephan Lomp’s “Mama Saurus” (Chronicle, ages 2-4) tells the tale of early independence. Babysaurus slips from Mama’s back, rockets down her Brachiosaurus tail and is lost. Searching for his missing mother, he asks other little dinosaurs if they’ve seen her, but they are locked in their own perspectives. Ornito asks about the speed of Babysaurus’ mother while Rexy wonders if she has sharp teeth. Finally he finds the orange Brachiosaurus and declares her “the best Mamasaurus in the whole jungle!”
Kelly Starling Lyons’ “One More Dino on the Floor” (Whitman, ages 4-7) imagines a frolicsome dinosaur ball. The author busts out some amazing writing moves as she unites counting with a plethora of vivid verbs, evocatively describes dance styles and gives the text a strong rhythm. There’s a hint of tension when T. rex arrives. Will he end the frolicking? No, he only wants to show off his moonwalk. Luke Flowers’ illustrations add even more energetic expression to Lyon’s rollicking adventure.
B.B. Mandell’s “Samanthasaurus Rex” (HarperCollins, ages 4-6) is a T. rex with a difference. She’d rather paint than chase animals, sort bones than gnaw them and use her words instead of biting and fighting. This female heroine shows strength in wit and leadership when her unique approaches result in rescuing her family from an erupting volcano.
In nonfiction, there’s a double treat in the book-audio set “Dinosaurs” (National Geographic Kids and Live Oak Media, ages 4-8). Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld’s simple writing is perfect for early readers. Sound effects, bright illustrations and an animated reading by Joe Towne unite to highlight dinosaur types, history and habits. Fun facts and jokes add to this pleasing experience.
Brenda Guiberson’s nonfiction view of “Feathered Dinosaurs” (Henry Holt, ages 5-8) was inspired by recent scientific discoveries. William Low’s illustrations aid the author’s simple descriptions of dinosaurs such as the Anchiornis, or “almost bird,” who couldn’t fly, to Eoalulavis, “ a small flying dinosaur who had extra flight feathers to maneuver at slow speeds.”