Wednesday 3 April 2013

I Wish There Were Dinosaurs

I Wish There Were Dinosaurs by Amanda Niland, illustrated by Christina Booth (Windy Hollow Books)
HB RRP $27.99
ISBN – 9781922081049
Reviewed by Emma Cameron

End papers of this book immediately draw readers in with their map of a zoo that keeps dinosaurs. The map even has a key showing where to find viewing areas, education zone, café, toilets and bus stop. Childlike typeface and lively layout follow, adding to the appeal of whimsical yet exciting scenes which are mostly illustrated in earthy tones. Told in rhyme, the story delves into one young boy’s wish.

While museum exhibits endeavour to show us how big certain dinosaurs were, the effect is limited. Skeletons just aren’t the same as the real thing. This story’s narrator, who always wears a strapped on dinosaur tail, appears on the title page pushing an elephant away. While he admits he likes them, he wishes zoos kept dinosaurs. He decides that writing to the zoo is the answer.

From here each spread ensures readers see exactly what the narrator imagines. As they journey through the zoo with him they will get a feel for what different dinosaurs were like in comparison to existing zoo animals they will be familiar with. Giraffes are not at all that tall! I was especially relieved to see that the dinosaur eyeing off the woman at the ticket booth is obviously herbivorous.

Partway through enjoying his imaginative trip to the zoo, the narrator ponders over what could go wrong. What if the fences didn’t hold the dinosaurs in? How frightening would it be to face a T-Rex that’s escaped, or any large dinosaur for that matter? Even small ones have bigger jaws than monkeys. And the sheer size of many also means they could easily destroy our homes.

Such thoughts result in a quick and sensible decision to cancel the letter, balancing tension with humour to calm readers who might be frightened. Readers will delight in the logic of the solution and those in preschool and early primary years will undoubtedly visit the dinosaurs through the pages of the book over and over again.

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