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An Alphabet of Dinosaurs - Peter Dodson

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Illustrator: Wayne D. BarloweHardcover: 64 pages / Publisher: Collins / Published: 6 May 1997

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      25.02.2013 15:38
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      A lovely book, but not ideal for teaching the alphabet.

      My son is still learning his alphabet and alphabet sounds, so we have been using quite a few alphabet books. The main problem is that he really has no interest at all in the traditional A is for apple type books, and in all honesty I don't blame him. They do get boring long before a child has memorised all the letters and sounds. So we have collected a very unique collection of alphabet books, including two dinosaur books.

      An Alphabet of Dinosaurs is beautifully illustrated with vivid, colourful paintings showing a great deal of artistic talent. In addition to a full page painting for each letter there is also a very detailed black and white drawing of the animals skeleton. This makes this book ideal for art students as drawing the skeleton of an animal can help you draw more realistic pictures. Some years ago, when I used to draw myself I practiced quite a bit drawing animal skeletons in very light pencil and then fleshing them out with muscle and skin. Next to the skeleton is a simple figure of a man to give an idea of the size of this animal.

      Each letter also has a long paragraph describing the animal. This is written on a fairly high reading and interest level. For instance, one sentence reads "Erlikosaurus belonged to a group of dinosaurs called the segnosaurs". Although my 4 year does enjoy listening to these descriptions at times, I do feel the text is aimed at an older audience - I would say ages 7 to adult. This is a well written scientific book which is certain to please young paleontology fans, but may not be of as much interest to the average nursery age child.

      As much as I like this book, I do not feel it is ideal to teach a child the alphabet from. To star with, this does not have letters printed separately. I feel a book intended for children learning their ABC's should have large clear letters, preferably in Upper and lower cases. The only place a child will really see the letter is at the start of each dinosaurs name. This is written in an artistic and highly stylized manner, which looks lovely, but really is not the best for children just learning to read. Because of these issues, and the fact that the text is also geared to an older audience, I do not feel that this book was ever intended to teach children their ABC's. Instead I believe this book was intended as a showcase for the illustrators considerable skill. It is a collection of dinosaur facts and pictures that just happen to be in alphabetical order.

      However, I am never one to be restricted by what a product was intended for. If I can make it suit our purposes, I will. In this case I simply drew large letters into the book myself. Then having seen how helpful stickers were in an alphabet book, I also places foil alphabet stickers for each letter on the page with the text. Of course I have destroyed any resale of the book, but I only paid £2.81 for this used, so I can live with that. This book is not available new, so your only option will be to purchase it second hand. If you are willing to make a few alterations, I do believe this is useful for teaching the alphabet, but I would only recommend this for a child of nursery age if they have strong fascination with dinosaurs and a good attention span to listen to more complex text. Alternatively, you could just show them the pictures and tell them a bit about the dinosaur.

      This book is listed for children ages 5-8. I am rating it as such and therefore giving this 4 stars. Both of my children enjoyed this, but it really has not been read nearly as often as many of other dinosaur books, and most often when it is read, it has been at my suggestion. However if I were considering this book for a much older art student it would have 5 stars hands down. Even as a simple collection of dinosaur facts, it is nice, but not as nice as the newer DK books. Still the pictures are beautiful and most people will find a dinosaur or two they had never heard of before like Zephyrosaurus, Quasitosaurus and Janeschia. There are quite a few very small dinosaurs in this book as well. My son especially liked a small bonehead dinosaur no larger than a staffy or cocker spaniel called Wannanosaurus, and this has been worked into many of our bedtime stories. Fabrosaurus is also very tiny, as is Leptoceratops and even Velociraptor ( the ones in Jurassic Park are more like Troodon than Velociraptors - the actual velociraptor might have been as big as a collie). If you have any particular interest in smaller dinosaurs, this book is certainly worth purchasing.

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