The best books about dinosaurs and evolutionary relationships for kids

Who am I?

Long before becoming an author and awarded science teacher, I was a child who explored the unpaved colonial roads in rural New Hampshire and brought home bucket loads of tadpoles, frogs, and turtles from nearby wetlands. I knew the rock walls that lined those roads had been placed by others who’d worked the land long before. My curiosity extended to wondering what the area had been like before humans started changing things. In retrospect, perhaps I wrote Chicken Frank, Dinosaur! in part for that backwoods girl full of questions about the world around her. Equally so, it’s for every curious child—even those who aren’t sure about dipping their toes into the mud just yet. Enjoy!

I wrote...

Chicken Frank, Dinosaur!

By S.K. Wenger, Jojo Ensslin (illustrator),

Book cover of Chicken Frank, Dinosaur!

What is my book about?

In this quirky tale with a STEM foundation, Chicken Frank wants to convince his doubting barnyard friends that he is a dinosaur. But no one believes him. When the results of a DNA test inspire Frank to hold a reunion with a toothy distant relative, will he become a tasty chicken nugget?

Showing friendship and family can be found in unexpected places, Chicken Frank, Dinosaur! will appeal to dinosaur and animal lovers everywhere. It offers a perfect blend of humor and information in its exploration of evolution, extinction, and scientific debate.

The books I picked & why

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Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Life: The Definitive Visual Guide to Prehistoric Animals

By Dorling Kindersley,

Book cover of Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Life: The Definitive Visual Guide to Prehistoric Animals

Why this book?

I love this book because opening the cover and moving through the pages is like stepping up to a buffet loaded with a bountiful feast. No matter where readers land, they’ll find themselves immersed in fantastic photos and supported by fascinating tidbits of information. From graphs showing changing levels of carbon dioxide on the planet going back to prehistoric times to the stunning artistic rendering of Archeopteryx to the bountiful illustrations putting the size of different dinosaur species into perspective (as compared to humans), this book is a treasure for all ages. Our students fell in love at first sight and enjoy visiting it during downtimes in the classroom.

Jack Horner, Dinosaur Hunter!

By Sophia Gholz, Dave Shephard (illustrator),

Book cover of Jack Horner, Dinosaur Hunter!

Why this book?

How can kids not walk away inspired to dig into their own interests after reading this book, especially if they feel like their dreams are out of reach or that they lack the skills to attain them? I love this book for the true life story it shares about a kid who grew up exploring the world around him, while paying attention to the details in a way that led to fascinating dinosaur fossil discoveries—discoveries that started small—with fossilized shells. Jack Horner found passion in hands-on science and persevered, despite dealing with the hardship of severe dyslexia. He also was helpful to me as I wrote my own book and was part of the inspiration behind it. It’s awesome to see such a great book about him.

A Dinosaur Named Ruth: How Ruth Mason Discovered Fossils in Her Own Backyard

By Julia Lyon, Alexandra Bye (illustrator),

Book cover of A Dinosaur Named Ruth: How Ruth Mason Discovered Fossils in Her Own Backyard

Why this book?

The lyrical and kid-friendly text in this book seamlessly blends information about the natural world in how it looked millions of years ago to a young girl’s journey in deciphering clues about prehistoric life that she found in her own backyard. By showing how Ruth Mason stuck to her desire for unravelling the mystery of the fossilized bones found on her ranch—even though she wasn’t a trained scientist—is a perfect launching pad to instill confidence in kids about their own observational abilities for things that interest them. Another book about perseverance and holding fast to one’s beliefs, A Dinosaur Named Ruth is a winner! 

I am not a Dinosaur!

By Will Lach, Jonny Lambert (illustrator),

Book cover of I am not a Dinosaur!

Why this book?

From the lizard-looking Dimetrodon to the wooly mammoth to the 1,000-pound turtle-like Glyptodont, as well as the modern-day Latimeria fish species that was believed to have gone extinct millions of years ago (Surprise! It turned up in a fisherman’s net!), puts this book in the “must-read” category. A bouncy rhyming text that highlights large creatures that roamed the Earth both before and alongside dinosaurs, makes this book a win, especially since it lands at a modern-day avian dinosaur that can be seen in tweety parakeet.

Fossil by Fossil: Comparing Dinosaur Bones

By Sara Levine, T.S. Spookytooth (illustrator),

Book cover of Fossil by Fossil: Comparing Dinosaur Bones

Why this book?

What I love about this book is the pattern of step-by-step questions posed to the young reader about what kind of dinosaur they would be if certain bones were added or lost to their skeletons, followed by a surprising answer. Not only does this book explore some of the most popular land-walking dinosaurs, it also extends to the first reptiles that flew (Pterosaurs) and others that swam in the seas. My favorite part of this book is that it brings readers to recognize that modern-day avian dinosaurs are still among us—in birds! Along with an ultimate invitation to step into the best place for observing and learning more about them, which is outdoors.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in dinosaurs, fossils, and South Dakota?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about dinosaurs, fossils, and South Dakota.

Dinosaurs Explore 53 books about dinosaurs
Fossils Explore 23 books about fossils
South Dakota Explore 8 books about South Dakota

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs, and Locked in Time if you like this list.