The 6 Best Books About Dinosaurs Reviewed and Ranked

Written by Katie Begley
Published: September 23, 2022

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Dinosaurs have captured the imagination of just about everyone at some point. These prehistoric giants seem like something out of a fairy tale, but the amazing thing is that they actually lived and walked (or stomped or ran) right where we do today. With fossil evidence taking center stage at many museums, it’s no wonder that people can’t get enough of learning about dinosaurs.

Books about dinosaurs are available for everyone from the youngest babies to adults interested in the science and exploration that led to these monumental discoveries. Many include illustrations, pop-up displays, and photos that both educate and entertain. Some are even written by paleontologists about their own journeys of exploration and the discoveries that they have made.

If you want to find the best book about dinosaurs for a young reader, interested museum visitor, or anyone who wants to learn more about the fascinating world of paleontology, here is our roundup of the top choices.

  1. The Dinosaur Book
  2. The Dinosaur Book
    • 208 pages.
    • Customers recommend this for readers ages 3 through 8.
    • Features over 1,000 images of fossil fragments, full skeletons, and CGI renderings of dinosaurs.
    Check Amazon
  3. Encyclopedia Prehistorica Dinosaurs : The Definitive Pop-Up
  4. Encyclopedia Prehistorica Dinosaurs : The Definitive Pop-Up
    • 12 pop-up pages.
    • Customers recommend this book for children ages 3 through 7.
    • From renowned masters in the world of pop-up books, Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart.
    Check Amazon
  5. Dinosaur Dance!
  6. Dinosaur Dance!
    • 16 pages.
    • Customers recommend this book for children ages 1 through 3.
    • A humorous book about dinosaurs doing quivery quakes, shimmy shimmy shakes, and cha-cha-chas.
    Check Amazon
  7. National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Dinosaurs (National Geographic Little Kids First Big Books)
  8. National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Dinosaurs (National Geographic Little Kids First Big Books)
    • 128 pages.
    • Customers recommend the book for children ages 3 through 5.
    • Part of the National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book series, which comprises 21 books currently.
    Check Amazon
  9. Official Guide To The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
  10. Official Guide To The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
    • 168 pages.
    • An illustrated guidebook offering a tour through the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.
    Check Amazon
  11. The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World
  12. The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World
    • 533 pages.
    • Authored by a young paleontologist proving to be at the forefront of the paleontology world today, Steve Brusatte.
    • Washington Post calls it, "A masterpiece of science writing."
    Check Amazon

Best Overall: DK Smithsonian The Dinosaur Book

Best Overall
The Dinosaur Book
  • 208 pages.
  • Customers recommend this for readers ages 3 through 8.
  • Features over 1,000 images of fossil fragments, full skeletons, and CGI renderings of dinosaurs.
Check Amazon

In our review, the overall best book about dinosaurs is the DK Smithsonian The Dinosaur Book. This book has life-like illustrations that kids will enjoy. They also show older children and adults what these prehistoric animals would have really looked like. Each page is full of illustrations and facts that show everything from the inside of a dinosaur egg to what different species ate. It includes photos of actual fossils, connecting what we think about dinosaurs with the scientific evidence that has been collected.

One of my favorite things about this book is how it is organized. The various spreads show not just individual species of dinosaurs but also how they lived together and interacted with their environment. Pages compare the sizes and shapes of different dinosaur teeth, complete with photos of actual fossils. The book also details the plant life that flourished during the time of the dinosaurs and how it was an important source of food for many.

It goes into detail about what came before the dinosaurs and how life evolved and developed after the dinosaurs. After all, the dinosaurs were one part of a long history of evolution. For a book that teaches much more than just the names of some popular animals seen in Jurassic Park, this is the best choice. As you read, be ready for your child to announce that they want to be a paleontologist and find their own fossils.

Best Pop-Up Book: Encyclopedia Prehistorica Dinosaurs: The Definitive Pop-Up by Robert Sabuda

Best Pop-Up Book
Encyclopedia Prehistorica Dinosaurs : The Definitive Pop-Up
  • 12 pop-up pages.
  • Customers recommend this book for children ages 3 through 7.
  • From renowned masters in the world of pop-up books, Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart.
Check Amazon

The dinosaurs actually leap from the page in this pop-up book written for elementary-aged kids. Each page centers on a large figure in the middle that pops up out of the book when it is opened. These include long-necked sauropods and, of course, the fearsome predator Tyrannosaurus rex. There are 35 pop-ups in total. They depict not just dinosaurs but other prehistoric animals as well.

Elements of each dinosaur are highlighted in both the text explanations and the pop-ups themselves. Club tails, spikey backs, and sharp teeth are just a few of the details that you’ll see illustrated in this book. It’s easy to imagine the dinosaurs in fierce combat or chomping down on a tasty leaf with the level of detail that has gone into these depictions.

Best Board Book: Dinosaur Dance! by Sandra Boynton

Best Board Book
Dinosaur Dance!
  • 16 pages.
  • Customers recommend this book for children ages 1 through 3.
  • A humorous book about dinosaurs doing quivery quakes, shimmy shimmy shakes, and cha-cha-chas.
Check Amazon

If you love cute illustrations and imaginative scenes, you’ll love Sandra Boynton. In this adorable board book, dinosaurs dance across the page to entertain your little one. They also teach a bit about body movement and dinosaurs’ characteristics. For example, Triceratopses go “tappety tap,” reinforcing the letter T sound. Pterodactyls, on the other hand, go “flap, flap, flap” with their giant wings.

You can invite your child to dance along and move their own bodies. We’ve tried this book at bedtime and it is just too much fun (and my kids love dinosaurs too much) to sit still. Instead, we have made it a fun part of our morning routine to get them up and moving. It is also a great book to use when they need to get energy out. They’ll love dancing around like the dinosaurs. Just be ready for it to evolve into some stomping and maybe some dinosaur battles if you have siblings.

Best for Kids: National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Dinosaurs

Best for Kids
National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Dinosaurs (National Geographic Little Kids First Big Books)
  • 128 pages.
  • Customers recommend the book for children ages 3 through 5.
  • Part of the National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book series, which comprises 21 books currently.
Check Amazon

We have multiple National Geographic Little Kids books in my house and the First Big Book of Dinosaurs is the family favorite. The book has colorful illustrations of dinos in their most fearsome poses. Each page has facts about that species of dinosaur as well as a short paragraph about the animal. My kids’ favorite part is the comparison of the dinosaur’s size to a person’s. Even after multiple readings, they still exclaim how amazing it is that these dinosaurs are “so ginormous.” Be ready for your child to do their best T. rex impression as you read together.

In addition to the informational pages about each species, there is also a prehistoric map that shows where they lived. This sparked a lot of conversation and questions in my home. There are helpful parent tips on how to read the book and learn with your kids.

It’s written for ages 4-8 but adult readers should expect to spend time helping with the words even if your child is a reader. The book uses scientific vocabulary, which we love, but does make deciphering and sounding out the words a bit tricky for early readers. Even I had trouble with some of the more obscure dinosaur scientific names. Fortunately, there is a guide to pronouncing the dinosaur’s name on each page.

Best Museum Companion: Official Guide to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Best Museum Companion
Official Guide To The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
  • 168 pages.
  • An illustrated guidebook offering a tour through the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.
Check Amazon

Before you visit the National Museum of Natural History on the Washington, D.C. mall, pick up a copy of this official guide. It is published by the Smithsonian and offers insight into navigating the museum. The book also covers the history of the Smithsonian and some of its most beloved exhibits. It doesn’t focus exclusively on dinosaurs. But as one of the most-visited exhibits in the museum, the Fossil section is very comprehensive.

You can also find other information about Smithsonian opportunities in the guide, including how to get to the IMAX theater, cafe, and other activities. There is also a naturalist center in nearby Leesburg, Virginia where visitors can participate in some of the research that is going on. This book goes into detail about how to get there and what to expect. Just be sure to check online for the most up-to-date hours, events, and closures as you plan your visit.

Best for Adults: The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World by Steve Brusatte

Best for Adults
The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World
  • 533 pages.
  • Authored by a young paleontologist proving to be at the forefront of the paleontology world today, Steve Brusatte.
  • Washington Post calls it, "A masterpiece of science writing."
Check Amazon

Some kids actually live out their dream of becoming a paleontologist. Steven Brusatte was one such kid and now he’s written a book, The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World, about it. It was voted one of the “Best Books of the Year” by many organizations, including the Smithsonian, NPR Science Friday, Science News, The Times (London), Popular Mechanics, Library Journal, the Chicago Public Library, and Booklist.

Brusatte tells the story of the dinosaurs, including how they evolved, what their lives were like, and what caused their eventual extinction. While it is full of science and facts, it reads more like a narrative biography than a textbook. There are also plenty of harrowing tales about paleontology and exploration all over the world from Brusatte’s own experience.

How to Choose the Best Book About Dinosaurs

When deciding on your next read about dinosaurs, consider these factors.

  • Reading level
  • Illustrations
  • Scientific Data

Let’s look at each one to determine which book is right for you.

Reading Level

Books about dinosaurs can be written for children, teens, and adults. Kids’ books tend to have simpler words and phrasing, as well as plenty of illustrations and photos to give context. Books for teens and adults include more of the scientific method and research that goes into making discoveries about dinosaurs.

If you are buying a book for a child in your life, consider the reading level to make sure that the book is accessible and will hold their interest. A book that is too simple may bore them quickly. They may have trouble getting through a book that is too challenging. If you aren’t sure, you can always pick a book and read it together to see how your child does with the reading level.

Illustrations

Some of the best books about dinosaurs, especially for younger audiences, include fearsome pictures of these prehistoric giants. If you want to see what dinosaurs may have looked like, look for a book that includes illustrations based on fossils and evidence. Some also have pictures of actual fossils so that you can learn more about the research process and how scientists study old bones and dirt to determine what dinosaurs looked like when they were alive.

Scientific Data

Almost all dinosaur books include interesting facts but the ones for older teens and adults dig deeper into the methodology behind research and paleontology. You can read about what is involved in a dig, what elements of fossils are examined, and how researchers piece together the complex puzzle of the past to determine what life may have been like for the dinosaurs.

These books can also have an interesting storytelling component as they map the history of the dinosaurs. Some even detail the beginnings of paleontology as a field and the developments that it has seen over the years.

The 5 Different Types of Books About Dinosaurs

Different types of books are geared toward different ages and interests. Here are some of the most common kinds.

  • Board books – These books are ideal for babies and toddlers because they can hold up to pulling hands, teething gums, and spilled snacks. The pages are made of thicker cardboard and often have a glossy finish that is wipeable. They also feature fun illustrations and simple words that your young child will love.
  • Picture books – Kids of all ages will enjoy picture books due to their detailed illustrations and stories. Pop-up books fall into this category and have 3D interactive features, such as pull tabs and flaps that open to reveal more interesting facts.
  • Informational books – These tend to be more science-based, with diagrams and tables to teach you all about dinosaurs. Books geared for kids have more illustrations and simpler language while adult books can get pretty detailed about the methodology behind data collection and research.
  • Museum guides – If you are visiting a museum that has a great dinosaur exhibit, consider picking up a museum guide beforehand to give you even more insight as you walk around. Some are available at the museum gift shop or online while others are written by authors, researchers, and enthusiastic visitors to the museum.
  • Historical books – These tend to be more common in adult books and focus on the larger historical context of the period during which dinosaurs roamed the earth. They can be a mix of science and history as well as provide information about the research that is happening today.

Up Next…

About the Author

Katie is a freelance writer and teaching artist specializing in home, lifestyle, and family topics. Her work has appeared in At Ease Magazine and The Spruce, among others. When she is not writing, Katie teaches Creative Writing at Indian Creek School and was awarded an Author Fellowship to Martha's Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing. She also enjoys spending time with her three kids and cat.

The 6 Best Books About Dinosaurs Reviewed and Ranked FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is the best encyclopedia of dinosaurs?

Encyclopedias about dinosaurs written for children are actually some of the most comprehensive and easy to read. They include a wide variety of dinosaurs, go into detail about their features, and show what they may have looked like. You can also look into academic papers and journals if you want to get more into the research and science behind the species.

What is the study of dinosaurs called?

Paleontology is the study of prehistoric life, including dinosaurs. Some paleontologists focus on dinosaurs while others study plant life, early mammals, microscopic organisms, and even fungi.

Why does my kid like dinosaurs so much?

Just about every child goes through a dinosaur-loving phase, which is one reason why there are so many dinosaur books written for children. The sheer physical size and structure of dinosaurs can be fascinating for children. Many also like the idea of discovery and want to learn more about what paleontologists do. For some children, including mine, it is all about digging in the dirt and mud.