We never reached dinosaur obsession level with Boy Detective, but he’s definitely open to a good book about giant prehistoric lizards who could crush you with one footstep. For the young (or not so young) reader in your life who’s amused by similar thoughts, here’s our list of well-written dinosaur books for kids.
Sammy and the Dinosaurs by Ian Whybrow, with illustrations by Adrian Reynolds. This is one of my favorite children’s picture books ever, because it captures the specific quality of a child’s deep love for a subject. In this case, it’s Sammy’s love for dinosaurs, as represented by his collection of plastic dinosaurs. This isn’t about materialism or toys, it’s about him knowing all of their names, and their place in his heart. Lovely book. (It was published in the U.K. as Harry and the Bucket of Dinosaurs, then got a name change to come across to the U.S. That practice in publishing, of changing the characters’ names, continues to baffle me!)
If I Had a Raptor by George O’Connor. A dinosaur book that doesn’t star a white kid? FINALLY! And this gal has seriously prehistoric taste in pets. Luckily she has the smarts to back it up. I’m not sure why any grownups would sign off on this plan, but really, if you were a kid and saw a box labeled “free raptors” wouldn’t you at least be tempted? It’s a simple story, but O’Connor’s drawings of this little girl and her large companion are cute, sweet, and clever.
Tyrannosaurus Was A Beast by Jack Prelutsky, art by Arnold Lobel. I firmly believe that Prelutsky composed this whole book just to laugh to himself as grownups everywhere stumble over pronouncing “Quetzalcoatl” multiple times. There is a pronunciation guide, though, and it’s worth the pain because the poetry in this book is really quite funny.
The Super Hungry Dinosaur by Martin Waddell, illustrated by Leonie Lord. What happens when an extremely hungry and rude dinosaur crashes into your backyard, threatening to eat your family and even your dog? You save the day and teach that dinosaur some manners, that’s what! Lord’s art is fun, and the victorious kid narrative never gets old around here.
When Dinosaurs Came With Everything by Elise Broach with art by David Small. Errands have never seemed so wonderful! If you’re a kid. If you’re a grownup, they’ve never seemed so completely out of control! This “what if” book had Boy Detective empathizing with both the excited kid and his freaked-out mom who are surprised to discover that today, instead of stickers or lollipops, for every business they visit they get a free dinosaur. What are they going to do with all of them?!
Are the Dinosaurs Dead, Dad? by Julie Middleton, illustrated by Russell Ayto. The dialogue between an inquisitive child and his know-it-all father in this book is nice and simple, leaving plenty of space for giant, hilariously quirky depictions of dinosaurs in the museum, their “caution” signs… and their strange activities which seem to indicate that maybe they aren’t as extinct as dad keeps claiming. The bar chart of extinction is my favorite page.
If the Dinosaurs Came Back by Bernard Most. Sudden reappearance of prehistoric creatures? No problem! There are all sorts of jobs they can do. I like Most’s bold, colorful art style and matter of fact narration of the child’s imaginative proposals for integrating dinos into modern society.
This one was covered in the books about pirates post, but it deserves a second listing here in Dinosaurs: Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs by Giles Andreae, and illustrated by Russell Ayto. It was so popular at our house that one of Boy Detective’s school teachers asked to borrow it. Truth be told, I was laughing as much as the kids. Well of course Captain Stubble is crying because dinosaurs stole his pirate ship! And of course Flinn and his school friends, who find the Captain in the back of their classroom’s supply closet, are the only ones who can help! What doesn’t make sense about that? The art is kid-like to represent Flinn’s imagination, without being messy and incoherent. Go for it, you won’t be sorry! [Edited to add: We did read the Missing Treasure sequel, but we weren’t as impressed with it. Alas!]
Chalk by Bill Thomson. Here’s another “crossover,” this time from the books about magic post. A wordless picture book about art, imagination, and magic, with a diverse cast. Also, a big dinosaur. The visuals are gorgeous, and the story has just enough suspense as drawings in the park take on a life of their own.
Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads by Bob Shea, illustrated by Lane Smith. When a new sheriff comes to town, you better hope his paleontology is up to snuff. Otherwise, how will he ever catch the gang of criminals known as the Toad brothers? Don’t wait for that to make sense. Just read the book. It’s one of the funniest children’s books I have ever read. The new sheriff rides a tortoise. The outlaws kiss livestock on the lips. The dialogue is taciturn and perfectly crafted to be hilarious, not a word is wasted. Shea and Smith make an excellent team!
Good Night, Dinosaurs by Judy Sierra, illustrated by Victoria Chess. The back cover has this text: “Scientists know many things about dinosaurs: When they lived, where they lived, what they ate, how big they were. But what went on at little dinosaurs’ bedtimes has always been a mystery. Until now.” That gives you the author’s sense of humor in a nutshell, and the book did not disappoint. It’s in verse, but not overwhelmingly so, and has plenty of jokes that both parents and kids will enjoy. The dinos are drawn just short of goofy (especially the pteranodons in their nightgowns). Good bedtime choice, as well as endearing for dinosaur fans.
And that’s the list of our favorite dinosaur books for kids! If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments – and thanks for sharing on social media or with friends!