For die-hard dino fans

In these four books recommended for primary readers, some fiction and some nonfiction, you’ll find prehistoric creatures…and humans fascinated by them, as so many kids are! See also Danielle J. Ford’s May/June 2007 Horn Book Magazine article “Beyond Barney: What Makes a Good Dinosaur Book?” and the Guide Reviews/Database subject tag Prehistoric Life--Dinosaurs.

Henry and the Something New
by Jenn Bailey; illus. by Mika Song
Primary    Chronicle    56 pp.
3/24    9781797213903    $14.99

In his second early-chapter-book outing (Henry, like Always, rev. 3/23), Henry — a sensitive child who presents as being on the autism spectrum — is ambivalent about a field trip to the natural history museum. “Henry was excited. Everyone in Classroom Ten would ride the bus to the museum. Henry was also worried. Everyone in Classroom Ten would ride the bus to the museum.” Despite his concerns, Henry is looking forward to the dinosaur exhibit. When Samuel’s dad (a field trip helper) asks Henry’s group of three what they’d like to see, “‘Dinosaurs!’ said Henry. But he forgot to say it out loud.” Each of his attempts to make his voice heard is inadvertently thwarted, and Henry patiently accompanies his group to the rock, bug, and mummy displays. Song’s loosely rendered, limited-palette watercolor and ink illustrations telegraph emotion and deepen meaning for newly independent readers. When Henry eventually shouts “DINOSAURS!” the accompanying illustration makes clear his frustration, along with his classmates’ bemused reactions. They finally find the dinosaur room (after getting a bit lost), and Henry’s absolute joy is palpable. Bailey’s relatable characters, familiar scenarios, and gentle humor make this a remarkably satisfying read…whether you embrace the new or not. KITTY FLYNN

The Bone Wars: The True Story of an Epic Battle to Find Dinosaur Fossils
by Jane Kurtz; illus. by Alexander Vidal
Primary    Beach Lane/Simon    40 pp.
11/23    9781534493643    $18.99
e-book ed.  9781534493650    $10.99

Approximately one hundred fifty years ago, and sixty-five million years after the dinosaurs’ extinction, scientists discovered fossil treasure troves of bone beds in the western United States. Rather than combine their knowledge and discoveries, two well-known paleontologists, O. C. Marsh and Edward Cope, once friendly colleagues, vied for top billing in the scientific community. They infiltrated, sabotaged, and even destroyed one another’s dig sites. They furiously collected bones, identified new species, and published papers. And they both died lonely old men. Vidal’s earth-tone palette visually sets the scene for the numerous digs, while a gloomy gray dominates his compositions of the scientists away from these sites, where their distaste for each other plays out in public. He renders his digital dinosaurs and other creatures to reflect what nineteenth-century scientists knew about them, underscoring details from the text. Kurtz effectively creates the escalating tension between Marsh and Cope as she alternates each scientist’s action with the other’s reaction. In conclusion, she points out that the public was the true winner of this “war,” which produced new discoveries and museum exhibits of the hundred and thirty species the two collectively identified. Rounding out this clear and intriguing account are author and illustrator notes, a bibliography, and suggestions for further reading. BETTY CARTER

Drag and Rex: Forever Friends
by Susan Lubner; illus. by Blythe Russo
Primary    Pixel + Ink/Holiday    64 pp.
11/23    9781645951155    $14.99
e-book ed.  9781645951179    $8.99

In spite of their differences, Drag, a relaxed, spontaneous dragon, and Rex, a more serious and somewhat stiff dinosaur, are the best of friends. When they make a snowbear together, Drag accidentally melts it by breathing fire a bit too close; but then Drag encourages Rex to recover from disappointment and skate on the ice that forms. Later, Rex, wearing a button-down shirt and a sweater with elbow patches, helps Drag, in his T-shirt and jeans, calm down enough to notice that the scary story he is reading can’t actually be too scary, since it is about a dragon. The book is divided into three sections, and each section is further divided into three chapters. The stories have plenty of humor; in “Snow Day,” readers may empathize with the friends’ exhaustion when they finally conquer all the buttons, zippers, buckles, and laces involved in getting dressed to go outside — and instead they take a nap. Russo’s lighthearted cartoon-style illustrations on every page and the abundance of white space and attention to layout all work well together to make the book approachable for young chapter-book readers. Give this to fans of Cordell’s Cornbread and Poppy (rev. 3/22) and Snyder’s Charlie and Mouse (rev. 7/17) and their sequels. MAEVE VISSER KNOTH

The Iguanodon’s Horn: How Artists and Scientists Put a Dinosaur Back Together Again and Again…and Again
by Sean Rubin; illus. by the author
Primary    Clarion/HarperCollins    48 pp.
3/24    9780063239210    $21.99

What did dinosaurs really look like? The best attempts to answer this question are constantly changing. Rubin shows how each major find in paleontology, as well as the techniques and creativity used by paleoartists, have produced improvements in scientifically grounded artistic illustrations. For the iguanodon, unearthed in the early nineteenth century, each subsequent discovery of new fossils, including complete skeletons, was a big help (and one discovery showed that what was thought to be a horn was really a thumb-spike). But equally important were the theoretical advances that led scientists to think of dinosaurs as more akin to modern birds than to modern reptiles. The illustrations for the most recent theories are some of the most exciting, adding colorful flesh, wattles, and feathers reminiscent of the variations in birds. Rubin’s pencil, watercolor, and “digital collages” (from the copyright page: “The artist is not entirely sure what to call all this, but ‘digital collage’ sort of makes sense”) portray the paleontologists and artists of each era alongside a rendition of the time period’s signature dinosaur, with humorous asides from both species. A helpful text box accompanies the dinosaur portraits and includes a list of their key features, facilitating comparisons across the history of paleontology. Endnotes provide additional backstory as well as source illustrations from prominent historical and contemporary paleoartists. DANIELLE J. FORD

From the May 2024 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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