Mega-Predators of the Past
It’s time for dinosaurs to step aside and let prehistoric mega-predators like the terror bird and giant ripper lizard take the spotlight! Travel back in time to meet some little-known hunters that once populated our planet. Discover how they lived, what they ate, and what they have in common with animals alive today.
Young readers will appreciate the book’s humorous voice as well as the dynamic browsable design and art that’s both playful and scientifically accurate. Mega fact files, infographics, and rich back matter provide a plethora of additional details.
Honors and Awards
Colby Sharp's Favorite Books of 2022
Fuse #8 Productions 2021 Best Nonfiction Picture Books
Fuse #8 Productions 2021 Best Science & Nature Books
Junior Library Guild Selection
NPR Science Friday radio show feature
Evanston Public Library 101 Great Books for Kids, 2022
Washington State Towner Book Award Nominee
“Forget the dinosaurs! Meet the REAL (and enormous) mega-predators of the past. … It’s clear from the outset that Stewart knows how to do this nonfiction stuff, and do it well. This takes some standard elements in books in terms of scale and makes them fun. For example, every time they show a little person’s silhouette for scale, that silhouette is usually fleeing, falling, flailing, or trying to defend itself from the animal being discussed. The writing itself is fun and funny (it’s continually besmirching dinos and how they dominate discussions of ancient predators). And  then you get to the explanation of how Stewart did her research and you are left with NO doubts that this book is, for this moment, as accurate as it could possibly be.”
—Betsy Bird, Collections Development Mgr, Evanston Public Library, Evanston, IL
“A rousing roundup of outsized meat eaters … Looking like modern creatures, only much bigger, the extinct predators Stewart selects run from a 28-inch prehistoric scorpion to ‘railroad car’ sized protoshark Megalodon…. with commentary that suggestively goes for the gusto: ‘Dive! Swish! Chomp! Gulp! Meet the Sanders seabird—a prehistoric predator guaranteed to make fish fret and squid squirm." Each sharply detailed portrait comes with a fact box and, entertainingly, a silhouette with a to-scale human figure flinching, cowering, or fleeing in terror. In a closing twist, the final entry, the "biggest predator of all time," is the nonextinct blue whale (‘makes T. rex look like a puny pipsqueak’); along with a source list and an audience-appropriate selection of further reading, the author and illustrator both end with helpful notes on their research methods. A creature feature presented, and likely to be devoured, with relish.”
Kirkus Reviews
Stewart's book challenges readers to think beyond the dinosaurs when considering the topic of prehistoric mega-predators from land, sea, and air. In an enthusiastic and sometimes teasing tone, she speaks directly to readers, using action and alliteration to give this the pace of a sports highlight reel! . . . Gray's illustrations are bright, realistic, and free of gore despite the sometimes vividly described hunting techniques. Author and illustrator notes give age-appropriate explanations on the research; the back matter also includes sources and suggestions for further reading. VERDICT An ideal book on an evergreen topic, this is fun, casual reading for those looking to expand their knowledge of prehistoric creatures.”
School Library Journal
“Stewart eschews the usual parade of dinosaurs, turning the spotlight on some equally impressive, though less notorious, creatures … Each spread includes a chatty introduction, a condensed list of specs (size, location, year of discovery), and a humorous size comparison that often shows a to-scale human running away from or cowering next to the predator in question. The handsome, lifelike illustrations are chock full of action and expression, freezing the predators at their most dramatic moments. ‘Face the facts, friends … dinosaurs are overexposed and overrated,’ Stewart cheekily declares, and she makes a seriously impressive—and hilarious—case.”
Behind the Book
“In August 2016, as I was looking at the articles and notes pinned to the Idea Board in my office, I stumbled upon an article I’d torn out of Smithsonian Magazine in 2012. What was it about? Titanoboa—a fearsome 40-foot-long snake that lived in the swamps of Colombia 60 million years ago.
“I’d been holding onto it for 4 years, hoping the stupendous snake would eventually make its way into one of my books. As I re-read all the cool facts about this prehistoric predator, I suddenly remembered an article I’d recently read about a giant scorpion that lived long before the dinosaurs, and that brought to mind giant dragonflies and Megalodon—the biggest shark to ever live. I thought it was interesting that all these humongous hunters looked similar to animals alive today.
“It seemed like a good idea for a book, so I did some research to see if I could find enough examples of giant predators that were related to and closely resembled modern animals. There were plenty.
“For the book to work, I knew it needed something special, an irresistible hook that would excite and inspire young readers. Unfortunately, nothing came to mind.
“But one day, as I was taking a shower, I began hearing a lively, humorous, sarcastic voice in my head. It was complaining that, when it comes to ancient animals, dinosaurs got all the attention, and it was time for that to change. That’s the moment Mega-Predators of the Past began to take shape in my mind.”
Mega-Predators of the Past
by Melissa Stewart
illus by Howard Gray
Peachtree, 2022
for ages 6-10
ISBN 978-1-68263-109-6
Purchase this book at your local independent bookseller or
Pinnochio Rex and Other Tyrannosaurs
Listen in as Melissa talks about Mega-Predators of the Past on the Reading with Your Kids podcast.
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