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Children's Books About the Earth & Prehistoric Life

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First Earth Encyclopedia touches on all topics related to the planet, including geography, lifeforms, history, its place in the universe, and what may come in the future. It's a good starting point for kids, with some very informative and useful diagrams. 

National Geographic Kids Everything Rocks and Minerals: Dazzling gems of photos and info that will rock your world features the incredible photography and immersive detail that you come to expect from this publisher. This volume stands out for us in particular because of one photo of a lava flow that had cooled and turned to rock, resulting in a major "a-ha!" moment for Bulldozer.

Inside Volcanoes (Inside Series) is another fantastic volume in this series, full of exciting, fact-filled, engaging photos, eyewitness accounts, and expert analysis. All the kiddos learned about the layers of the earth and the parts of a volcano primarily from this book. Bulldozer especially is a huge fan.

Inside Earthquakes (Inside Series) compliments the volcano book very well.  The concept of plate tectonics is explained in simple terms here, which the kiddos found very helpful. Like all the Inside Series books, there are pages that fold open to reveal more information and images, to fully immerse the reader in the astounding world of seismology.

Dinosaurs to Dodos: An Encyclopedia of Extinct Animals by Lessem, Don published by Scholastic (1999) is a unique volume in the crowded field of prehistory books for kids. The author, Don Lessem, is a world-famous paleontologist, and here, he organizes the book by geological time period, from the Precambrian to modern times. Lessem writes with humor and intelligence, and the illustrations by Jan Sovak are beautiful and vibrant. One of our favorites.

Visual Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs is a dino-fan's dream come true. Dinomite owns and cherishes this volume, packed with 400 pages of full-color illustrations, all in a convenient pocket-sized softcover edition. It will keep budding paleontologists of all ages busy, at home or "in the field."

Paleo Bugs: Survival of the Creepiest stands out from many other books about prehistoric life by focusing on these often overlooked members of the animal kingdom. From sea scorpions to giant dragonflies to the indestructible cockroach, this book brings them all to life with brilliant artwork by author and illustrator Timothy Bradley. All three kiddos drew a picture of the giant centipede Arthropleura inspired by the one in this book.

Dinosaurs: A Visual Encyclopedia is the full-sized version of the DK visual encyclopedia reviewed above. As with all things related to dinosaurs, the bigger the better. This volume covers all the time periods, but the vast majority of its pages are dedicated to the dinos of the Mesozoic Era. They are presented in all of their glory here, in both computer animated and hand drawn forms. A visual feast.

The Complete Guide to Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Reptiles: A Comprehensive Look at the World of Dinosaurs with more than 250 Superb Illustrations brings even more attention to the reptiles of the ancient world, focusing almost exclusively on dinosaurs and their contemporaries. Dr. Michael Benton brings the knowledge and passion to this beautifully illustrated volume that made the BBCs Walking with Dinosaurs series a huge success a few years ago, This is one of Dinomite's all time favorite books.

National Geographic Kids Ultimate Dinopedia: The Most Complete Dinosaur Reference Ever is definitely the Tyrannosaurus Rex of dinosaur books for kids. The latest dino knowledge, including new species not found in other books, is detailed by none other than "Dino" Don Lessem and perfectly complemented by the lush, lively artwork of Franco Tempesta. And, for parents-the names of each species in the book is written with phonetic pronunciation. Take it from our resident expert Dinomite, this book is the best.

Sea Monsters: Prehistoric Creatures of the Deep takes a different approach than most of the books we have reviewed here. Readers are invited to dive into the deep, deadly oceans of the past, presented in stunning 3-D animation (the glasses are included.) Some of these sea creatures make T-Rex look tiny, so this is definitely one for the thrill-seekers out there.

National Geographic Prehistoric Mammals is the next step in a budding paleontologist's course of study. Highly detailed and informative, this volume focuses on Cenozoic-era creatures, which tend to be neglected in most of these volumes. Like the other National Geographic materials, this book is filled with incredible illustrations, photography, and includes numerous resources for further research. This makes a great companion to the National Geographic Dinopedia, and holds a place of honor on Dinomite's bookshelf.

Journey to the Center of the Earth is the fiction book that we chose to read aloud to the kiddos to accompany this unit. Widely considered to be one the the best works by the legendary Jules Verne, this is an action-packed adventure, weaved together with scientific insight,  lots of drama, and poetic flourishes. Despite the awkward and outdated language you would expect from a novel written over 200 years ago, all of the kiddos have invested in this story, and listen intently each day. It is a long book, over 400 pages, so it is a big commitment, but your patience will be rewarded by taking this unforgettable adventure, written by a literary master at the peak of his powers. Highly recommended.


  1. Great collection! My kids never got into dinosaurs. I wonder if I should leave a few of these around the playroom :) Thanks for linking up with #made4kids.

  2. Great list of books! Thanks for sharing with #WhatToReadWednesday. Hope to see you back again this week!