Saturday 15 June 2013

Call of the Wild and Dino Champions

Robert Irwin Dinosaur Hunter - series by Jack Wells, illustrated by Lachlan Creagh (Random House Australia)
PB RRP $9.95 each
Book 5 – Call of the Wild
ISBN 9781742750934 – pbk.
ISBN 9781742749594 - ebook
Book 6 – Dino Champions
ISBN 9781742750941 – pbk.
ISBN 9781742749600 - ebook

Reviewed by Marian McGuinness

After many adventures in his previous books, Robert Irwin is back with his best friend Riley. With the aid of his lucky claw, Robert and Riley continue their adventures as they time travel back to the era of the dinosaurs. This series of single-plot storylines continues to excite new readers and is a winner for six to nine year old boys who dream of dinosaurs, adventure and time travel. Along with lots of action, there’s a handy dinosaur fact file at the end of each book (where I learnt that dinosaurs probably didn’t roar, except in the movies!) as well as plenty of illustrations to further enliven the boys’ adventures.

Book 5 – Call of the Wild – Robert and Riley are camping with their families in outback Queensland. They’re in Muttaburrasaurus country, where the first fossils of this dinosaur were found.

It’s night and raining and the boys need to go to the loo. In the dark they get disorientated. Robert’s magic dino claw whisks them back 100 million years where a storm is also raging. Reptiles fly overhead and in a lightning flash the boys see an abandoned baby dinosaur, with ‘it’s legs stuck in a deep pool of mud.’ They nickname him Barry and try to push him out of the swamp. Pterosaurs flap their skinned wings overhead and chase Riley, intending to make a meal of him.

Finally the boys free Barry. They try to find his mother by ‘honking’ through the bushes. In a spike of lightning the boys see ‘the figure of the adult Muttaburrasaurus.’ It ‘rose up on its back legs, stretched out its neck, maybe seven metres high, and gave an enormous honk.’ Robert and Riley watch as ‘the two ancient Australians walk away to rejoin their pack.’

Book 6 – Dino Champions – Robert is training for his athletics carnival. He’s trying to run fast enough to catch up to the school champion, Lauren Johnson. Robert wonders which dinosaur would have run the fastest.

As Robert and Riley chase each other around Australia Zoo, Robert’s magic dinosaur claw jiggles around in his backpack. Before they know it, the boys are in Canada, 74 million years ago. They’re being chased by a dinosaur with ‘three claws on each foot to grip into the ground like running spikes.’ It’s a dromiceiomimus, meaning, ‘emu mimic.’ Robert makes notes of its running style to use in his athletics race.

The boys fall asleep and are transported to North Africa, where two spinosaurus are fighting; they’re even bigger than the T-rex, with spines as tall as an adult and a skull like a crocodile.

Robert’s magic claw transports them again to the lush forests of Argentina where ‘titanic sauropods’ with bodies like bridges and legs like supports, graze on the treetops.

But the boys need to head back to Australia and the present. They wade into the freezing water where the magic claw swirls them home. When it’s time for the athletics carnival, Robert races against Lauren. He imagines being chased by a terrifying spinosaurus. He comes second but looks forward to his next adventure with dinosaurs and wonders what else he is going to discover.

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