Just getting to his seat in fifth grade becomes an ordeal for Sawyer after he develops the tail and back plates of a stegosaurus over the summer.
Not that it's a surprise, since his family is descended from one of a number of victims of a lab accident years ago that mixed human with dinosaur DNA. But even with tennis balls covering the spikes so he doesn't inadvertently impale anyone, accidents keep happening. Not to mention relentless bullying. In a series debut with more twists than a strand of DNA, Oakes not only presents her frustrated dino-lad with a physical challenge, but a moral one too: Though it seems that the new principal is ruthlessly culling Sawyer's multiple bullies to enforce a zero-tolerance policy, in fact she's collecting them to sell on the interplanetary pet market. Should he even try to rescue them? (To his credit, Sawyer doesn't hesitate to do the right thing.) Ultimately, and with real help from a pair of allies that includes an odd new classmate who's not entirely human either, he stages a dramatic rescue, unmasks (literally) the kidnapper and comes to terms with his differences. Though practically mirroring Bob Balaban’s Boy or Beast (illustrated by Andy Rash, 2012) in premise and even parts of the plot, it’s nevertheless good fun.
An entertaining barrel ride past sheaves of middle-grade themes from bullying to racial identity. (Science fiction. 10-12)