Wedding two topics with kid appeal—in this case dinosaurs and Mardi Gras—does not always result in a winning combination.
The stanzas in de Las Casas’ latest offering are written in the cadence of the famous song “Mardi Gras Mambo” that fills the streets of Louisiana every year during carnival season. Each stanza ends the way the song lyrics do, with the phrase “Down in New Orleans.” While this promising strategy should have readers bopping their heads and singing the words out loud, the awkward rhythm and rhyme cause the tale to fall decidedly flat. Take, for example, what should be a rousing finale: “T-Rex waves goodbye until next year / The happy crowd chants a carnival cheer / It’s a jumping Dinosaur Mardi Gras / Hooray for all the jaws and claws.” Additionally, the multisyllabic and difficult-to-pronounce dinosaur names that pepper the text don’t exactly trip off the tongue, a fact that would make sharing the story with groups of children a challenge. What’s more, Gentry’s watercolor illustrations feature what appear to be angry and confused creatures barreling down New Orleans streets. All are bedecked with beads, and some sport eyeglasses, crowns, umbrellas and boots, but their expressions, for the most part, don’t suggest that they are enjoying this experience.
Unfortunately, quality titles about Mardi Gras for young readers are scarce, and this one doesn’t fit the bill. (Picture book. 4-7)