Friday, May 22

DInosaur Versus Bedtime


by Bob Shea
Hyperion 2009

Roar! I am a dinosaur! ROAR! Nothing can stop me!

A pile of leaves, a playground slide, a bowl of spaghetti, all met with the little dinosaur's fearlessness and a mighty trio of roars as this simple picture book progresses toward the ultimate showdown against bedtime. Following each battle "Dinosaur wins!" sets up the reader for the turn when baby dinosaur meets his match.

Shea's use of playful, childlike illustrations, bold colors and collages, and expressive typeface give this simple story the extra edge it needs. It's a bedtime book that honors and recognizes that settling in for the night doesn't begin quiet, just as baby dinosaur's day begins with yelling and action and progresses toward the inevitable.

I am not a huge fan of the bedtime book as a rule. For the most part they are books designed to calm and prepare a child for bedtime, they serve as child modification devices for adults. There are books for children about grieving, books about potty training and books to explain "issues" like bullying and divorce. This need to find a book to explain or frame specific situations on behalf of adults creates an illusion that books have all the answers, that unpleasant business can be handled with a book, and trains young minds to view reading a book with skepticism. Like medicine, where is the joy of reading if it's presented as an aid to a symptom. Stories should be told for the joy of the story, not as a means to an end.

Shea's book takes the bedtime book and turns it on its head. Instead of quiet good-nights to items in the room or lullabies from animal mommies to their babes we have a rambunctious baby, a dinosaur baby, roaring right and left, fighting and defeating inanimate foes. The subversion in this is that young readers are easily lulled into thinking this books will end in a victorious dinosaur winning against bedtime. But after a bath and brushing of teeth the roars get quieter and even dinosaur can't win against sleep. And the lesson: even raucous dinosaurs need their sleep.

And so, for his second birthday, my nephew is getting Dinosaur Vs. Bedtime, as well as Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and The Nutshell Library.

Literacy wins!
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