I was curious to see if I could identify the kinds of dinosaurs I sketched once when using my daughter's toys as models. I was pretty sure they were all based on real dinosaur species. So I brought home a bunch of library books on dinosaurs to peruse. (Ended up finding all the dinosaurs except one). And since I had them at home, and they have such cool pictures, I figured I'd read some and learn a little bit. Here's the first three (most of them are kid's books, as I guess it's usually children who are interested in learning about dinosaurs).
Dinosaurs: Herbivores by Dougal Dixon
This book describes many different groups of plant-eating dinosaurs: early sauropods (the long-necked ones), ornithopods (which ran upright on long birdlike toes), iguanodons (first discovered in 1822), duckbilled dinosaurs, stegosaurus and his relatives, nodosaurids with spikes, ankylosaurids with club tails, the pachycephalosaurids which had bony heads (probably used for butting each other like goats) and the parrot-beaked dinosaurs (including triceratops). It has many hand-drawn illustrations as well as pictures of the bones. I really liked all the little side facts which showed things scientists know about their body structures: how the dinosaurs carried their weight, what the shape of their teeth tells us, how speculation continues about the arrangement of stegosaurus' plates (they were attached to muscle, not bone: were they moveable?) There was even a sauropod with long spikes on its neck, which I never heard of before! One small confusing thing about this book was its arrangement; each spread has a main block of text with smaller illustrations and descriptions surrounding it. On some spreads the main text block was on the right-hand page which threw me off for a second because I'm used to reading beginning on the left side. This arrangement alternated rather inconsistently, too.
Bizarre Dinosaurs by Christopher Sloan
This book is just plain fun and fascinating. It highlights eleven specific dinosaurs that have features scientists are still puzzling over. We don't know their function, but they sure are strange and cool to look at! There's a stegosaurid with long spikes jutting out of its shoulders, a little tree-climbing dinosaur with one extra-long finger like an aye-aye, and a sauropod with a funny wide mouth full of tiny, comb-like teeth. I thought it was really cool to read about how scientists made a model of the bony structure atop parasaurolophus' head and blew air through it, discovering that it makes noise like a horn! And did you know there's a dinosaur called Dracorex hogwartsia? That's right, a dinosaur (discovered in 2006) named after Harry Potter's school! It has such a fierce-looking bumpy and spiky skull someone thought it looked like a dragon. This book is illustrated with computer-generated models which I love looking at because of the minute details and realistic textures.
Triceratops and Other Horned Plant-Eaters by Virginia Schomp
Unlike the other two books, which just state plain facts, this one is told in a kind of storylike fashion, imagining to the reader how ceratopsian species of dinosaurs might have lived. Did they live in herds for protection? did they use their horns for sparring with each other, or just fighting off predators? What I liked most about this book were all the illustrations showing different kinds of ceratops, the family group that includes triceratops. Some of these dinosaurs had huge, tall neck shields with studs all around the edge. Some had forward-pointing horns, others long spikes on the back of the shield. One had a curious nose horn that curved forward and down. And there was a little primitive ceratops with no horns and a small neck shield, whose face looks rather like a parrot (at least in this picture). I'm fascinated by all the different forms and shapes they took.
One of the things I enjoy most about all these books is, of course, the pictures. We don't know what color dinosaurs were, so the artists are left to create that aspect of the dinosaurs. Some give them dull colors but focus on the textured hide. Others give them wild bright stripes and spots, speckles and fancy bold patterns. It's fun to see how different they can look just by being dressed up in colors and stripes. There is one dinosaur we now know the color of, and I wonder if in the future every dinosaur's colors will be as well-known as triceratops' three-horned profile, making future generations look back with amusement on our fantastical creations when we painted their hides.
Anyhow, if you have a kid who's interested in dinosaurs, look for some of these books at the library! They're lots of fun and very interesting. I know I learned a lot!