Here be dinosaurs.
When adapting a song to a picture-book format, the source material should have the same natural rise and fall of action as a literary text. Some songs take to their newfound formats like a fish to water, while others, like Berkner’s here, are left gasping for air. Working a plot onto the plotless lyrics of the titular song, pictures and added dialogue send five little dinosaurs on a hike up a mountain. The cartoony crew stomps, stops to eat, climbs, and goes to sleep in a mountaintop cave before running heck-for-leather back down to avoid a volcanic demise. Plenty of dialogue assists the text, though the lyrics of the song provide the story’s backbone. Readers already familiar with the music will enjoy the lively adaptation, but for new fans, the lure of dinosaurs may not be enough to sustain their interest. Much of the heavy lifting is performed by Clanton, whose wide-eyed, perky dinosaurs attempt to hang a plot on Berkner’s upbeat, repetitive lyrics, with limited success. Though there is initial lip service paid to the repeated assertion that the dinosaurs “make the earth flat,” depiction of the dinosaurs on the lumpy incline of the mountain will puzzle readers. Oddly, for a book so reliant on familiarity with Berkner’s song, no CD or online link to the music is included (though “We Are the Dinosaurs” sheet music is printed on the book’s back cover, where it will likely be inaccessible to library users).
In a market teeming with terrible reptiles, this book earns itself a big di-NO. (Picture book. 3-6)