Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

Wild History! Books about prehistoric animals

Kids love dinosaurs. This is a known fact, and my groaning 567.9 section is proof positive of it, but I like to branch out a little and get kids checking out what other prehistoric animals there are to learn about. There are several great new books out that will give my 567 section a nice boost.

Forgotten Beasts: Amazing Creatures That Once Roamed the Earth, by Matt Sewell, (July 2019, Pavilion), $19.95, ISBN: 9781843653936

Ages 7+

Originally published in the UK in 2018, Forgotten Beasts contains over 45 illustrated portraits and profiles of birds and beasts that roamed the planet alongside and after the dinosaurs. There’s the Opabinia, a 2-inch arthropod from 508 million years ago through 1936, when the last Thylacine, a carnivorous marsupial, went extinct. There are some names kids will recognize, like the ginormous shark, Megalodon; the saber-toothed tiger, also known as the Smilodon Fatalis, and the Woolly Mammoth (for the Ice Age fans!). Each picture is skillfully rendered in muted watercolors, showing readers that prehistory wasn’t relegated to muddy greens, browns, and grays. Each profile includes the animal’s size, weight, time period, and diet, and a descriptive paragraph or two, and a timeline helps readers envision when these animals, alongside dinosaurs, roamed the Earth. Endpapers feature the stars of the book in miniature, parading across the pages. A nice book to beef up your non-dinosaur prehistoric collections.

Life: The First Four Billion Years (The Story of Life from the Big Bang to the Evolution of Humans), by Martin Jenkins/Illustrated by Grahame Baker-Smith, (Sept. 2019, Candlewick Studio), $24.99, ISBN: 978-1-5362-0420-9

Ages 10-14

The cover alone will make readers stop and give this book a look. Starting with the Big Bang, Life: The First Four Billion Years brings readers along on a journey through Earth’s first four billion years, ending right before we humans show up. Life starts off with foldout spreads that detail the beginning of Earth; from there, the book moves into the Ice Age, life’s beginnings in the water, its move to land, the ages of dinosaurs and of mammals, and the breakup of Pangea and formation of the continents, and the “Road to Us”: evolution of homo sapiens. Illustrations are the focal point of the book, and Kate Greenway Medal winner Grahame Baker-Smith is at the top of his game, creating landscapes both lush and stark, with black and white and color artwork of a prehistoric world. Award-winning author Martin Jenkins writes for upper middle graders and older, making the science of prehistory accessible to all ages. A glossary and illustrated timeline of the planet make this a stunning volume to have on your shelves.

Prehistoric: Dinosaurs, Megalodons, and Other Fascinating Creatures of the Deep Past, by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld/Illustrated by Julius Csotonyi, (Sept. 2019, What on Earth Publishing), $18.99, ISBN: 978-1-912920-05-1

Ages 7-11

Traveling backwards from present day to 541 million years ago, this slim volume is packed with illustrations, infographics, and easily digestible information about the earth through 17 eras. There’s information about climate change, ecosystems and extinctions. A running timeline at each right-hand page margin keeps readers up-to-date on the era and presents a visual representation of time covered as the book progresses.

Color illustrations are museum-quality; you can easily envision these bringing life to exhibits at any museum you may go to. Keeping in mind a younger and middle-grade audience, the information is broken up into short paragraphs, bold infographics, and callout facts. Back endpapers act as a visual table of contents. Keep Prehistoric in mind for your nonfiction sections; hand any of these books to your Apex Predators and Prehistoric Actual Size fans.

Prehistoric is produced in association with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

Posted in History, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction

Welcome to the #Dinosaurium!

Dinosaurium, by Lily Murray/Illustrated by Chris Wormell, (April 2018, Candlewick), $35.00, ISBN: 9780763699000

Recommended for readers 7-12

This gorgeous volume from Candlewick imprint Big Picture Press’ “Welcome to the Museum” series is part museum, part archive. Dinosaurium gives readers a tour of the prehistoric world, from the breakup of Pangea, through the dinosaur/prehistoric non-dino eras, to the mass extinction and the survivors.

Dinosaurium presents readers with six galleries and a library (whoo hoo!). Laid out like a museum plan, we enter the book and see a two-page spread of the dinosaur family tree, illustrating how various dinosaurs are related; maps present us with views of the world through each era, and dinosaur exhibits – the artwork – are breathtaking color illustrations, with a view of the dinosaur as it looked when it roamed the earth, and, where applicable, fossil artwork.

I’ve been a Christopher Wormell fan for a while: his Teeth, Tails & Tentacles was on the heavy duty reading rotation when my now 14-year-old was a toddler and preschooler, and I fell in love with his woodcut artwork. Here, his digital engravings lend a museum-like quality to the work; paired with author Lily Murray’s kid-friendly, detailed text, Dinosaurium becomes a book that dino fans will return to again and again. It’s an oversized book, really allowing the illustrations to breathe and take up the space we expect from dinosaurs. The forest-like endpapers give you that “stepping into a primeval forest” feel that comes with walking into a museum exhibit. There’s an index, a word on the curators of this project (author Lily Murray, illustrator Christopher Wormell, and consultant Dr. Jonathan Tennant), and a list of resources for further research and reading.

Dinosaurium is a great gift for dino fans, and a nice add to dinosaur collections. It was originally released in the UK in 2017.

Posted in Fiction, Humor, Tween Reads

Lug: Dawn of the Ice Age – a middle-grade Ice Age tale

lugLug: Dawn of the Ice Age, by David Zeltser. Egmont USA (2014). $17.99, ISBN: 9781606845134

Recommended for ages 8-12

A mix of How to Train Your Dragon and Ice Age, Lug: Dawn of the Ice Age introduces readers to Lug, a young caveboy who’s the outcast of his tribe. His fellow tribe-mates are big brutes who face off against their rival tribe in a rough sport called Headstone; Lug would rather be painting in his art cave. He and his tribe-mate, Stony, are banished after they fail to secure macrauchenia mounts for Headstone, and wander the woods, eventually meeting Echo, a young cavegirl from the rival tribe with a secret – she can talk to animals and has a pet woolly mammoth, Woolly, that she needs to find a home for. Echo and her younger brother, Hamhock, join Lug and Stony on a journey that will introduce them to new animals and great changes headed their way – namely, the onset of the Ice Age.

This is a great book for middle graders. Not only is it a fun, accessible story with parallels to two books and movie series they grew up with – How to Train Your Dragon and Ice Age – they will pick up some knowledge on the way. The themes of two factions at war without really knowing one another, being the odd kid out, and bullying are all themes that will speak to readers’ day-to-day experiences, but they’ll also learn about prehistoric animals like the macrauchenia – a kind of giant llama (I looked it up!), the woolly mammoth, and the Dodo bird, all of which give readers who are willing to dig deeper the chance to pinpoint where Lug and his people are from (look it up!). There’s even a brief description on how Lug creates his cave paint. The blending of nonfiction with fiction is seamless and would enhance a class unit on prehistory. There is black and white line art throughout the book, which are, presumably, Lug’s cave drawings. These little “easter eggs” within the story add a fun new dimension to reading.

Lug: Dawn of the Ice Age isn’t due out until September 9, but it’ll be perfect timing for back-to-school reading. These little “easter eggs” within the story add a fun new dimension to reading. I’m hoping to see more of Lug’s adventures down the line.