Little kids love dinosaurs. I don't understand the attraction, but I think it has something to do with the same reason kid's love fairy tales - something about the strong representations of good and bad in the world of dinosaurs and the simplicity of their existence. Dinosaurs looked for food and tried not to get killed. Dinos are perfect subject matter for kids books, but they don't always lend themselves to interesting stories. Jane Yolen and Mark Teague's How Do Dinosaurs... series is great, but more of a poem than a story. Patrick's Dinosaurs by Carol Carrick, illustrated by Donald Carrick is a good story with great illustrations. But those are the only dinosaur books worth mentioning I can think of right now. I am sure there are lots of other great dinosaur books that have a solid story and energetic illustrations and I hope you will point them out to me, but for now, When Dinosaurs Came with Everything by Elise Broach and illustrated by Caldecott winner and editroial illustrator David Small is kind of lonely at the top of my list in this category for a few good reasons.
First off, this story has kid and adult appeal. It's errand day with mom. What could be worse from a kid's point of view? What could be more familiar to a parent that the eye rolling and complaining that accompanies this announcement? But, this is not your typical errand day. This is the day When Dinosaurs Came with Everything! At the first stop, the bakery, a sign clearly reads, "Buy a Dozen Doughnuts, Get a Dinosaur." Mom thinks this MUST mean a toy dinosaur, but when the counter lady trots out a triceratops the boy is beside himself with glee. Next stop, the doctor's office and a stegosaurus. With a shot, you get two dinosaurs. The boy begs the nurse for a shot and that extra dino, but it's a no-go. The dinosaurs gladly follow the boy and his mother down the street, where the boy excitedly greets other kids and their free dinosaurs. At the barber's, Mom tries to make sure that balloons are always the freebie, but is greeted by the barber and a pterosaur, his tail being held like the string of a balloon.
Let me stop here to say that, Broach's writing is fantastic in this story. And, like all superb picture books, the text and the illustrations work together, supporting each other and sharing the stage. David Small's cartoonish sketches are also paintings that have a depth and expressiveness that adds to the story in dramatic ways. Neither the text nor the illustrations talk down to children, either. There is nothing adorable about these dinosaurs. They are big and kind of dangerous looking. Ok, the baby hadrosaur is very cute and I would probably let my kids keep him.
The story continues with Mom deciding against visits to the shoe store, movie theater and diner for lunch where she sees a girl leaving with her T-Rex. They hustle home, after a quick snack for the dinos from the back of a garbage, and pick up a baby hadrosaur on the way. Maybe he just followed their car, maybe he was following the doughnut the boy was dangling out the window. Who's to say? Once home, Mom goes for a cup of tea and a lay down and the boy sets out showing his new pets around - where to do their business, which mean dogs to stay away from and so on. When they are playing in the back yard and the pterosaur retrieves the frisbee from the rain gutter Mom pops her head out the window to see what's going on out there and a light bulb goes on! The book ends on a happy note with an unforeseen twist, a quality I love in a picture book.
Elise Broach has also authored the picture book, Wet Dog! illustrated by another prolific illustrator of kid's books and editorial cartoonist like David Small, David Catrow.