Many of my readers may already know of Riley Black. She authored the long-running blog Laelaps (listed among my personal favorites in my “Resources” tab above!), as well as several books, such as My Beloved Brontosaurus, Prehistoric Predators, The T. Rex Handbook, and more recently, Dinosaurs: Profiles from a Lost World. For this review, I take a look at her “seek & find” style adventure through the Mesozoic, titled Did You See That Dinosaur?
The story follows two young explorers named Ava & Mateo as they take a trip aboard a time machine to visit each of the three periods of the Mesozoic: the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous. While hunting after individual species, they comment on the environments in which they lived, and the differences between geologic periods. (It reminds me a bit of Dinosaur Empire! in that respect.) They apparently have a case of the butterfingers, as they tend to drop their equipment all over the place. It’s up to the reader to help them collect their items so they don’t become Out of Place Artifacts!
With Riley Black as the author, one hardly need comment on the scientific accuracy; she’s been at this for years, and knows her stuff! The science facts are seamlessly woven into the story, making for an engaging experience for younger readers. The book includes a nice assortment of classic, crowd-pleasing creatures, as well as a few more original additions. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen the Triassic critters Tawa and Caelestiventus in a children’s book before, and while Megalosaurus and Ouranosaurus aren’t exactly obscure, they don’t receive starring roles often enough in my opinion.
One comment about the seek & find aspect; while my kids enjoyed hunting for Ava & Mateo’s equipment, I personally had expected a search for the dinosaurs themselves based on both the title and subtitle of the book. It doesn’t necessarily detract from the value of Did You See That Dinosaur? as far as I am concerned, but I thought I should note that in case other readers go in with similar expectations.
The art is a bit of a mixed bag for me. Several of the creatures look pretty good, such as the Ouranosaurus I shared above, though others look a bit off. As is often the case in dinosaur media, the theropods tend to receive the short end of the stick. In particular, the feathering on Utahraptor and Velociraptor seem a little haphazard. In fact, the Utahraptor looks a bit like a traveling animatronic I’ve seen that had feathers added in as an afterthought. The Tyrannosaurus looks a little funky too, though the odd angle likely has something to do with it.
For a kid interested in more in-depth information and more consistent artwork, I might recommend Riley’s previous kids books, Prehistoric Predators and The T. Rex Handbook, while readers of all ages are also sure to enjoy Dinosaurs: Profiles from a Lost World, which I have also reviewed. For those who enjoy more of a story or even activities in their dinosaur books, however, Did You See That Dinosaur? is sure to please. Either way, I always enjoy Riley Black‘s work. If you somehow haven’t come across her books before, I recommend making up for that as soon as possible!