There’s a fair number of prehistoric atlas books out there, so I was mildly surprised with myself when I looked over my list of past review and realized that Anne Rooney’s Dinosaur Atlas was the only such book I have featured here so far. So to rectify that oversight, I decided today to feature the, er, similarly named Children’s Dinosaur Atlas (by John Malam & illustrated by Katrin Wiehle).
While I’m not sure if all editions are like this, my copy of Children’s Dinosaur Atlas immediately sets itself apart from other atlases with several bonus features included with it. A poster of various fossil species, a sheet of stickers (some of which are meant to be used to complete the maps in the book), a cut-out-and-asseble Triceratops model, and even an additional smaller book called the “Dinosaur Spotter’s Guide” all add to the value of this volume.
The main book consists largely of maps of various regions of the globe, with small, cartoon dinosaurs placed roughly in the locations where each featured species was discovered. A paragraph or two describes the featured region, as well some basics about the types of creatures than called these regions home.
The “Dinosaur Spotter’s Guide” includes supplemental information for the main book, and includes additional activities, such as searching for specific dinosaurs from the main book. Readers can use a coordinate system that rings the margins of each page in the main book to write down precisely where to find the dinosaurs that the Spotter’s Guide prompts them to look for.
The sticker packs that come with the book come in three different types: those meant to be used in the main book, those meant to be used in the Spotter’s Guide, and a few sheets of “free play” stickers for use in whatever activity one desires.
Many of the cartoon dinosaurs scattered throughout the maps of the main book are greyed out, inviting the reader to complete the map by matching the appropriate sticker to the missing dinosaur. The Spotter’s guide also has dinosaur outlines meant to receive stickers, though the reader is meant to guess which stickers match to these ones based on clues provided by the guide.
I would have included photos of the Triceratops model in this review, but it was the first activity in this book that my boys and I did, and the flimsy paper model didn’t survive more than a few minutes, and so I unfortunately missed my window to take a picture of it.
As for the presentation, I liked that the book doesn’t follow continental divisions too slavishly, allowing it to focus on groupings more appropriate to the fauna presented. For example, the book does not present Asia all as one unit, but divides it into various regions: Russia & West Asia on one page, India & Madagascar on another, and China on its own on a third. Conversely, Australia and Antarctica are presented on the same double page spread, as befits their strong geologic and paleontological ties.
When it comes to the illustrations, though, I personally would have preferred something a little more precise, such as James Gilleard’s illustrations in Dinosaur Atlas. It can be difficult to appreciate the similarities and differences between certain species otherwise, which sort of defeats the point of comparing different dinosaur species from around the globe. However, while I overall prefer Rooney & Gilleard’s more detailed Dinosaur Atlas, the numerous bonus features included in the Children’s Dinosaur Atlas definitely ups it value. If you can find it for a good price, it makes for a good activity book for younger children.