Jane Yolen's How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food?
Illustrated by Mark Teague
Children's book review by Sarah Denslow
Well, how do dinosaurs eat their food? Maybe your child hasn’t thrown this particular baffling question at you, and maybe your child hasn’t pretended to be a dinosaur while at the dinner table, giving a loud roar and displaying partially chewed food. Nevertheless, both you and your child should still enjoy (and benefit from) this book.
How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food? is a silly but informative lesson on table manners. The book begins with a series of questions asking if dinosaurs display a certain improper behavior at meal times: Does a dinosaur flip his spaghetti in the air? Does he bubble his milk? Does he spit out partially chewed food?
Just when you begin to wonder if this book isn’t giving your child ideas (Does a dinosaur squeeze juicy oranges between his toes?), we find the answer to all these questions is…No! In fact, a dinosaur displays exemplary table manners. He sits quietly at the table, asks for more when he’s done, says please, and tries every new thing – at least one bite!
Yolen relies in part on the idea that many children like pretending to be dinosaurs for this book. How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food? is a great way to let them do so, while still encouraging good manners.
This book also has some of the most delightful illustrations and engaging verse I have seen in a long time. The illustrations show dinosaurs, who are much larger than their human parents and human-size households, initially misbehaving while their parents look on in frustration and bewilderment. (If you’re a parent, you will probably recognize those looks.) The dinosaurs are wonderfully colorful and their facial expressions are perfect. I particularly love the sly look on the dinosaur that is feeding its broccoli to the family dog when his parents aren’t looking.
As wonderful as the misbehaving dinosaurs are, I find the pictures of the dinosaurs using good table manners even more amusing. The tables they sit at and the utensils they use are human-size and therefore much smaller than they are. To add to the fun, the dinosaurs are even daintier than even the most well mannered child may be capable of being. There is something wonderful about seeing a dinosaur carefully hold a fork with two claws.
Teague also thoughtfully works the name of each dinosaur into the illustrations, so when you child asks, “What dinosaur is that?”, you’ll be able to reply promptly, assuming you’re up to handling the pronunciations. A deinonychus wipes his mouth carefully with his napkin; a cryolophosaurus eats pancakes daintily with his fork. Yes, these are real dinosaurs, although this may be the only children’s book where a course in Ancient Greek might come in handy.
Of course, Ancient Greek is completely unnecessary for thoroughly enjoying How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food? The rhyming verse moves the book along at a pleasant rate and helps keep children’s interest. (I have found that children will usually sit longer for a rhyming book than one in plain prose.) The illustrations should make you at least smile, if not laugh out loud, and after a reading of it, you can encourage your children to act like dinosaurs at the dinner table with a clean conscience.
I haven’t managed to get to all of them, but the ones I have read are excellent. You can look into a particular one if your child is having an issue with the behavior it addresses, and if you’re looking for a good book for an older child (8+), be sure to check out some of Jane Yolen’s chapter books in Amazon's Jane Yolen Store!
Read more of Sarah's reviews.
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