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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Reader's Diary #516: Robert Heidbreder and illustrated by Bill Slavin and Esperanca Melo: Drumheller Dinosaur Dance

One of our stops during our vacation this month will be Drumheller, Alberta. Of course the main attraction in Drumheller is the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology. Oh wait. Maybe it's the World's Largest Dinosaur, a 26 meter fiberglass t-rex. In any case, we're going to see the dinosaurs.

Here's a widely known fact: kids love dinosaurs. The movies, toys, t-shirts and books prove it. Yet, for all the dinosaur books out there, I've yet to come across one that has knocked my socks off. Most are either overly scientific and dull, threatening to crush any aspiring palaeontologist or obvious attempts to capitalize on the fascination, without really teaching anything more than a few names.

Sadly, Drumheller Dinosaur Dance falls into that 2nd category. It's the story of dinosaur bones beneath Drumheller that come to life at night, crawl out of the ground and dance. It's cute I suppose, but I'm no more excited to visit Drumheller because of it, nor did my children or I learn anything about dinosaurs. Instead we got the typical hyper-rhythmic rhymes that people are keen to credit as poetry, but are a dime a dozen amongst picture books nowadays.

They tango, fandango and break-dance with ease. They whirl on their tails and
twirl on their knees. BOOMITY-BOOM RATTELY-CLACK THUMPITY-THUMP WHICKETY-WHACK

It's been done so often. Compare this to another of my son's books, Dinosaurumpus! by Tony Mitton and illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees:
Donk! Donk! Donk!
Here's Triceratops
jumping up and down
doing dinosaur hops.
He wears three horns
on his big, bony head,
and blunders along
with a Bomp! Bomp! tread.
The rhymes are probably on par with one another, but at least there's a little education going on.

The only positive thing about Drumheller Dinosaur Dance is the fun and vibrant illustrations. I especially enjoyed a two-page spread of a boy dancing in his pyjamas. His shadows on the floor capture the boy's imagination as they depict a dancing t-rex.

Hopefully the real Drumheller will be a more rewarding experience. If not, we'll dance in our pyjamas and pretend that it was.

6 comments:

Teddy Rose said...

We visited the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology last year when we drove to Edmonton. We really enjoyed it. I hope your family and you enjoy it too!

Barbara Bruederlin said...

The real Drumheller is far more rewarding. And make sure you see the hoodoos while you are there.

Of course it goes without saying that the most rewarding part of all will be meeting a zombie.

Wanda said...

There was a cute little take on this book (or at least I thought it sprung from this book) on Sesame Street a few years ago.

I read stacks and stacks and every word of those factual Dinosaur books to my oldest daughter many years ago. Forget about just looking at the pictures, she always knew when I attempted to skip a paragraph or two! Dinosaur love grows into dragon fiction fascination when they're older, at least that's the way it went here.

Brian Bassingthwaighte said...

As a primary school teacher who has read to students Drumheller Dinosaur Dance often I think it has much to offer children. My students loved chanting it as a rap, making spooky sounds and moving to the beat of the book. Then after these experiences reading the book successfully by themselves is much more likely. We need books that can help beginning readers learn to read. There are many books that teach the facts about dinosaurs and more are published every year. Another great thing about Dino Dance is it is Canadian!
Brian
http://bevd.edublogs.org/

John Mutford said...

Teddy: We certainly did. Even the landscape around there is fascinating.

Barbara: We did see the hoodoos. And thankfully we took a pee break at Horseshoe Canyon, otherwise we'd have missed that beautiful area.

Wanda: I suspect it'll turn to dragon love here, too. It's like a dinosaur but with fire. How does anyone not think they're cooler?

Brian: I've been a primary teacher myself, and I've certainly seen better books than this. I also don't need the lecture that we need more books to help beginning readers to read-- you're preaching to the choir. And it being Canadian doesn't mean much if it's not well written.

Medea said...

Oops, should have had a look for this first!

I guess since this is our only dinosaur book I didn't think it was overdone, but I certainly see how it could be.