My First 100 Dinosaur Words

I have been chatting off and on with Biologos‘ Hillary Rankin since she invited me to write a brief listicle about some of my favorite books for their website a while back. Recently she introduced me to an adorably detailed board book called My First 100 Dinosaur Words, and as if it were cosmically ordained, I subsequently discovered it while randomly browsing through my local Barnes & Noble barely a week later! I of course purchased it then and there, and upon closer inspection realized I had already encountered author Chris Ferrie before. While this book is part of the new “My First STEAM Words” series, he also authored the “Baby University” series, including Nuclear Physics For Babies, which a friend of ours had given to my youngest son when he was a baby.

I’m pleased to see the inclusion of Borealopelta, one of the best-preserved ankylosaurs ever found, but it goes sadly unnamed here.

While his previous series marketed itself for babies, the “My First STEAM Words” series aims perhaps ever so slightly older, for more of a toddler base. That being said, a uniting feature of all of Chris Ferrie‘s children’s books is that each one aims to introduce kids to concepts that are stereotypically way above their level. In this book, for example, while the art by Lindsay Dale-Scott is simple and toddler-friendly, kids will learn advanced paleontology terminology like “pycnofibers” (pterodactyl fuzz) and “scleral rings”! (Incidentally, I would describe the illustrations having the general vibe of a cross between Mammoth is Mopey & Zoom: Dinosaur Adventure, though more like the former than the latter in terms of accuracy.)

I applaud this book for taking its young readers seriously, giving them the chance to enjoy learning big words to impress the grownups. I for one love to see its delightfully technical language alongside the more basic words.

When it comes to the prehistoric life featured, the book has a fun mix of familiar standbys alongside more obscure taxa. As a Texas resident, I particularly loved the inclusion of the basal mosasaur Dallasaurus. Dale-Scott even seems to have referenced the colors of the model held by the Perot Museum in Downtown Dallas, with its pattern of yellowish green & darker stripes.

Dallasaurus against the Dallas skyline.

While I’m inclined to forgive a lot in a book like this, it nevertheless makes a few significant errors I felt I should address. The featherless Velociraptor sticks out like a sore thumb of course, but an even more basic error occurs on the same page. The illustrations for Microraptor and Archaeopteryx clearly had their labels swapped somehow, though whether this was a mistake on the part of the creators or the printer, I can’t say. The one other error I noticed was a trilobite mislabeled as a giant isopod. While trilobites are relatively famous, extinct, roly-poly sea bugs, isopods (which include the modern roly-poly pillbugs you can find in your own backyard) happen to share only a vague similarity in shape, not a close family relationship.

As per the norm, when something in a children’s dinosaur book doesn’t hold up, it’s generally the maniraptorans that suffer most. We could also quibble about T. rex being the biggest, but I don’t want this turning into the Carnivora forum!

Even so, I’m just tickled by this book. Some might consider My First 100 Dinosaur Words one of those half-joking “for me for you” products meant to amuse the parents more than the kids, but I love it for what it is. It swings big, and makes a great starting place for little paleontologists-to-be. The errors I mentioned above are basic enough that I feel I can’t quite give My First 100 Dinosaur Words my full “Stomp of Approval”, but I recommend checking it out it nonetheless!

For more books that focus on a similar age bracket, check out my reviews of 199 Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals, the Spanish-language Dinosaurios Beb├ęs, and perhaps one of the best “explain it to me like I’m five” books ever written, Grandmother Fish!

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