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by Christopher Barnes

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

A retelling of the Filipino legend of the Sleeping Dinosaur, wrapped in a debut middle-grade historical novel.

Millions of years ago glacial movements and meteorites shaped what would be the islands of Southeast Asia. Dinosaurs lived on these islands, Barnes explains, roaming about islands like the Philippines and learning to survive in a constantly changing world. There were earthquakes, storms, volcanoes, and avalanches, but the dinosaurs (and the animals they fed upon) evolved along with these disasters. The creatures of this region generally lived in peace and harmony, but when humans came along (it’s necessary to suspend disbelief here, as humans and dinosaurs did not live in the same era), things started to change. Using their common sense and evolved brains, the people began to take over the very spots where the dinosaurs lived, eating their food and usurping their land. After a particularly bloody (and imaginatively gory) feeding frenzy during which the dinosaurs interrupted a picnic on the beach and devoured several men, the islanders decided to take revenge and eradicate the dinosaurs from their corner of the world. They succeeded, except for one dinosaur—a large female that was roaming in search of her child. Lost and alone, this dinosaur eventually died in the forest, where grass and trees and leaves covered her body. This ridge formed its own peninsula, dubbed the “Sleeping Dinosaur” peninsula, where it still lies today. Barnes’ folk tale has heart, and the story of how this peninsula came to be is interesting. The many asides, however, muddle the tale. The plot meanders, covering seemingly unrelated details about the dinosaurs while making its way to the punch line—how the ridge in question got its form. It’s more like a history or geology lesson than a historical narrative. The writing style, too, is quite stilted (“After a thousand more years have passed, human communities began to abound. Foot trails were formed or marked as well, as navigational routes were established. Earthquakes no longer happened in regular basis”). That said, budding paleontologists and geologists will enjoy the book and its included glossary.

An unfocused consideration of a famed folk tale.