Two paleontologists theorize that fossilized footprints are leftovers from a prehistoric dinosaur dance party in this children’s picture book.
In Cook’s debut, the first in a planned series called Listen to the Bones, dinosaurs waltz, tango, and shuffle. Instead of running from predators or migrating across lands, they time-step, double pirouette, and bunny hop. They wear top hats and bow ties, flowers on their heads, and decorations on their tails. They’re very polite about it all—at charity balls, they nod and bow—and they’re graceful, too, as they sway gently under the moonlight. After 22 pages of simple prose and full-page illustrations, however, the book switches gears and becomes a “learning centre” with explanatory paragraphs about the various dances and dinosaurs in the preceding story. There are facts about fossil collections around the world and famous paleontologists as well as other lessons for young readers: the book tells of the young 18th-century fossil collector Mary Anning and points out that “Earth is the only home we have, so let’s take care of it!” Nadeau’s illustrations, which include a ferocious Tyrannosaurus rex in a pink tutu, are colorful, clever treats, and the whimsical, sometimes-diagonal typesetting is also a lot of fun. The rhyming prose in the book’s first half is simple, exuberant, and suitable for toddlers and early grade schoolers alike. The second half, however, is more appropriate for older children, as the descriptions of dances (the waltz is “performed to music in 3/4 time,” while the minuet is a “stately dance, elegant in its simplicity”) and historical terminology clash with the earlier, more basic language. As a result, young readers will likely enjoy one half of the book more than the other.
A cute concept with illustrations to match, despite the disconnect between the simple story and the complex second half.