My youngest is four and while he knows many letters, he has not completely picked up all the letters and sounds yet, so I have been buying some books and toys to encourage this. I do not want to sit down and begin teaching him at this age - I prefer to just make the material available and let him absorb it when he is ready.
I would say he is going through a dinosaur stage, but I'm not so sure it is just a stage. He is genuinely fascinated by these creatures, as his brother is, and it may be something they always have an interest in. On many occasions,rather than stories, I find myself reading from reference book after reference book. My son currently uses reference books as a sort of shopping catalogue to choose which creatures he wants incorporated into the nights made up stories. So rather than just read about random dinosaurs - why not read about them in alphabetical order? This way my son can learn his ABC's and the difference between a Torosaurus and a Triceratops at the same time.
I was a bit unsure about buying this book. The reviews were mixed, and many Alphabet books tend to be very babyish - which immediately puts my son off. I was able to find this as part of a package deal from Awesome books though which gave me 4 books for only £7.47, making this less than £2. Once it arrived I was absolutely delighted, and not only did my 4 year old enjoy this, my 8 year old enjoys it as well.
I'm afraid I have become a bit spoiled for choice with dinosaur books. There are so many really good ones available, and I do prefer the ones with colour photographs of life like models such as Planet Dinosaur and the more expensive DK books. This book makes do with the traditional paintings for illustrations but they are quite well done. Of course creating life like models just for this book would have been much too expensive - and you never find ones already made for many of these creatures. If compared to the illustrations of most children's books - they do look very good. They look like dinosaurs not cartoons. Some are beautiful -some are rather ugly - but thankfully none of them are cutesy. Each page has one dinosaur and and a brief description. The print is large, well spaced and easy to read. This is printed on a coloured background, but it is always a relatively light background and neither myself nor my 8 year old had any difficulty in reading the text. If this book did not have the dinosaurs in alphabetical order with letters, it would still be a good reference book for young children, with lovely drawings and facts for 26 dinosaurs + 2 other prehistoric creatures. Each letter is printed in upper and lower case in a very large font and prominently displayed on each page.
There is one dinosaur for each letter but there are two extra pages. They both have a letter as well, and start out just like any other page, before the book tells us that these are not actually dinosaurs although they lived at the same time. Kronosaurus was not a dinosaur because he lived in the ocean - and dinosaurs lived only land. Ramphorynchus was not a dinosaur either - it was a pterosaur. This little ruse not only allows the author to fit in a sea creature and a flying beast for children who like these things - it also makes clear what is - and what is not a dinosaur. The addition of a pre Mesozoic reptile like Dimetrodon would have been grand here too, but as it stands the author is really teaching small children quite a lot while keeping the book very fun and easy to read.
My eight year old still likes this book now and then, as it has a few unusual dinosaurs he had not heard of before. He also had a laugh at me trying to pronounce a few names. He wants to be a paleontologist someday - so is still very much into his dinosaurs. One minor drawback I would point out is that this book does not give any guide whatsoever to pronunciation and I have no idea how some of these names are meant to be said - such as Xiaosaurus or Ramphororynchus and some of these very long words may prove difficult for new readers to decode - but that really can not be helped with this type of book. Dinosaurs have long difficult names - no matter which book you choose. I just take a wild guess at pronunciation and stick with it.
This book was bought for my youngest though, and he is the one who gets the most use from it. He says his favourite part of the book is the page with Parasaurolophus - but this is just because he loves Hadrosaurs in general and Parasaurolophus in particular. He loves the fact that some early scientists think the animals crest was meant to help it breathe underwater. It is now thought to have been used to create sound. He enjoys this book very much as just a book about dinosaurs. I don't think that he really cares one way or the other about the letters, but this is a book he wants to hear over and over, and so gradually he will come to know all the letters and sounds, without ever having to put any effort into learning them.
I really like the fact, that unlike many other more unusual ABC books, each page has 2 large ( 1" tall) very bold black letters, one upper case and one lower case. The text on each page also starts with a slightly larger capitol letter in bold and a line such as "L is for Lambeosaurus". This means the child is seeing the large letters alongside the dinosaur, and associating the name of each letter with the beginning sound for the word.
If you are tired of the traditional but boring A is for apple type ABC books or your child is finding most ABC books too babyish, then I really can not recommend this book strongly enough. Even if your child has long since learned their ABC's they may still enjoy this just as a dinosaur book and I expect it will be read for many years. The full price for this new from Amazon is £5.63, which I feel is reasonable, but used copies are available for only £2.63 with free shipping. This book is 32 pages in total, and the prices given are for paperback. A library edition is also available - but at much higher price.
To my son - this is just another fun dinosaur book - to me it as ABC book. I find it wonderful that it can serve as both, and do both jobs equally well.