I usually review middle grade and YA books on this blog. I thought it would be fun to do a post about dinosaur time travel books even though several of the books on this list are geared toward kids younger than middle grade. I have arranged the books roughly in recommended reading age, from youngest to oldest, and have noted the age recommendations from Amazon, as well as the Lexile level when available. (More about Lexile levels here.) I have reviewed three of the middle grade books in past posts; you can see what I had to say about them by clicking on “my review”. In addition, I read three of the shorter books, my opinions of which are expressed after the words “My take”. All book descriptions are from Goodreads. Enjoy!
1. Dinosaur Dream by Denis Nolan, 1994, 32 pages. 3-8 years, Lexile 680L.
Late one night, Wilbur hears a tapping at his window. There, standing in the yard outside his window, is a baby apatosaur. Knowing that the dinosaur can’t stay, Wilbur begins the long journey back through time to take him home.
Bravely facing a fierce saber-toothed cat and narrowly escaping a monstrous Tyrannosaurus rex, the two new friends trudge through the Ice Age and past the Cretaceous period, finally arriving at the Jurassic period. Once his long-necked friend is safely home, Wilbur makes the journey forward to his own time atop the largest, most spectacular dinosaur he’s ever seen.
(My take: The farther Wilbur walks from his house, the farther he travels into the past. I think this is a great way to represent historical epochs for young kids. Wilbur names the periods as he trudges through them, and although before I read this book I would have been hard-pressed to sequence these periods, I feel like I actually learned the order! The illustrations in this book are beautiful, the action often bathed in a golden light. The baby apatosaur basically acts like a friendly dog in this story, so is quite appealing. This is a great bedtime book, with good closure being achieved as the boy makes a long journey to bring the baby dino home, before being carried home himself. This book could become a beloved favorite for a young dinosaur fan.)
2.Shadow of the Dinosaurs by Dennis Nolan, 2001, 32 pages. 5-8 years.
What would you do if you found yourself back in the time of the dinosaurs? While on a family camping trip, Jesse and his dog, Shadow, discover a mysterious bone. Jesse wonders if it might be a dinosaur bone before he settles down to sleep. Soon the bone begins to glow, and brave little Shadow watches in awe as the rocks and trees around her begin to transform themselves into gigantic dinosaurs.
Shadow finds herself transported into a fiery world beyond time, where dinosaurs rule the Earth. Will she ever be able to find her way back home to Jesse and safety?
Dennis Nolan’s magnificent paintings will appeal to dinosaur fans everywhere as they find themselves captivated by this breathtaking picture-book adventure.
3.Time Train by Paul Fleishman 1994, 32 pages, 4-8 years. Lexile AD490.
On a class trip to Dinosaur National Monument in Utah, Miss Pym and her class are whisked back to prehistoric times by a mysterious train. “This you-are-there fantasy is a dream come true.”–Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books. School Library Journal Best Book of 1991. Full color.
(My take: As in Dinosaur Dream, the further the class travels, the farther back in time they go. Time Train has simple pleasing illustrations, usually only one sentence per page, and understated humor.)
4. Time Soldiers Series (seven books by Kathleen Duey and Robert Gould, 2000-2009), 5-7 years.
Six young friends become Time Soldiers when they stumble onto a secret time portal, leading them to an ancient world of dinosaurs and danger. The Time Soldiers fight to survive, escape the T. rex’s fury, and make it home alive.
5. Danger, Dinosaur! by Frieda Wishinsky, 2007, 96 pages. 6-9 years, Lexile 390L.
Like most children, Matt and Emily have always dreamed of seeing a real-life dinosaur. With the help of their magic sled, they travel back in time to see the Alberta Badlands during the Cretaceous period. There, Maiasaura, Lambeosaurus, and other giants roam the Earth. Emily and Matt are excited about finally seeing the amazing creatures up close, but that ferocious T. Rex is getting much too close for comfort! Dean Griffith’s bold illustrations of the prehistoric world and its fearsome denizens add thrilling highlights to this riveting, edge-of-the-seat adventure.
6. Andrew Lost With the Dinosaurs (Andrew Lost, #11) by J.C. Greenburg, 2005. 6-9 years, Lexile 540L.
Andrew, Judy, and Thudd have escaped primordial Earth only to find themselves surrounded by huge–and hungry!–dinosaurs. Meanwhile Uncle Al is still stranded in the Ice Age. Somehow Andrew, Judy, and Thudd must fix their time machine and rescue Uncle Al–before he becomes a human ice cube! Kids, parents, and teachers love this series–kids for all its gooey grossness, and teachers and parents for all the fun science and great discussion points!
(My take: I did not like this book as much as other books I have read from the Andrew Lost series. The plot seems to be crafted with reluctant readers in mind, but despite the abundance of interjections and exclamation points, poop jokes, and dinosaur chase scenes, the story did not seem as compelling as, say, those of Time Warp Trio books, which are of a similar reading level.)
7. Dinosaurs Before Dark (Magic Treehouse Series, #1) by Mary Pope Osborne, 1992, 80 pages. 6-9 years, Lexile 240L.
Before Jack and Annie can find out, the mysterious tree house whisks them to the prehistoric past. Now they have to figure out how to get home. Can they do it before dark . . . or will they become a dinosaur’s dinner?
A new series for dino-loving adventurers! Tom and Jamie can’t believe their luck when they find a secret entrance to a prehistoric world filled with dinosaurs! The first dinosaur they meet is a friendly wannanosaurus. It eats the fruit from super-stinky ginkgo trees. But soon, Tom and Jamie meet a much less friendly dino: a Tyrannosaurus Rex that would like to eat them!
9. Time Travel Dinosaur (Chooseomatic books, #3) by Mark Youngblood, 2014, 304 pages.
You work for the Time Travel Investigation Agency, a job which, to be honest, is mind-meltingly dull. That is, until a raving lunatic in a lab coat breaks the laws of physics and drastically alters the space-time continuum (changing your memory right along with it). Set off on a wild adventure through the Mesozoic Era, the Middle Ages, the steampunk 1880s, and the distant future in an attempt to safeguard the true timeline. The timeline where people evolved from dinosaurs. Time Travel Dinosaur is a sci-fi/comedy reimagining of the choose-your-own-path stories you grew up with. Find one of 76 possible endings, or get stuck in a time loop and literally read this book forever.
What if you suddenly found yourself in a misty world of colossal reptiles, giant insects, and a smoking volcano? Ryan wants to stay forever, but Nathan would go home now if he could only figure out how. In the meantime some of the dinosaurs have plans of their own for the two brothers — and that volcano is beginning to bubble. Here is an enchanting chapter book that will take young readers on the primeval adventure of a lifetime.
11. Dinosaur Adventure Series (four books by Judith Silverthorne, 2003-2008), 9-12 years.
Daniel has traveled to prehistoric times and seen the dinosaurs up close, but he’s promised his old friend Ole Pederson not to try it again because it’s just too dangerous. What would they tell his parents if Daniel never came back? But Ole’s friend Mildred Roost, a prominent paleontologist, wants to go back with Ole. For them the trip will be the thrill of a lifetime, seeing up close the colossal creatures they’ve spent a lifetime studying. They could die on their journey deep into the past, but, deep down, Daniel knows that they accept the risks.
12. Chronal Engine by Greg Leitich, 2012, 192 pages. 10-12 years.
When Max, Kyle, and Emma are sent to live with their reclusive grandfather, they think he’s crazy, especially when he tells them about his time machine. But after Emma is kidnapped at the exact time that her grandfather predicted, Max and Kyle are forced to believe his eccentric stories—even the one about the Chronal Engine in the basement.
Now, to save Emma, Max, Kyle, and their new friend Petra must pile into a VW Bug, and use the Chronal Engine to take the road trip of a lifetime—right back to the Cretaceous period. With dangers all around, the teens find themselves dodging car-crushing herbivores in addition to the terrifying T. rex. In this ancient environment, can three contemporary teens hunt down a kidnapper, forage for food, and survive long enough to return home?
Only Rob and best pal Phoebe investigate a creature lurking near remote Faith, Colorado this spring, that eats pets and scatters remains on mountainside. Sid, the Last Synapsid, a squat, drooly dinosaur-wienerdog cross lookalike, chases violent carnivore ‘gorgonopsid’. Fascinated by humanity, Gorgon refuses to return to his own time. If history changes, humans will never evolve
- Common Sense Media Dinosaur Books
- Upper Arlington Public Library Dinosaur Picture Books
- Reading Rockets Dinosaurs Rule!
- About.com Top 10 Children’s Books about Dinosaurs
- About.com Dinosaur Books for Children
- Library of Congress Dinosaurs
- Dinosaur News Dinosaur News Bookshop
- National Geographic Prehistoric World
- Tor-com 10 Essential Books Featuring Dinosaurs in Science Fiction
- Fox News 10 Dinosaur Attractions Kids Will Dig
- About.com Dinosaur Molds, Models, and Digs
- How Stuff Works How Dinosaurs Work