In this debut children’s book, two students at a special international school learn about bullying, friendship and understanding.
Dakota the dinosaur is having a hard time at school—he’s being bullied by his classmate and former best friend, Harry the horse. Although his mother presses him to tell her what’s wrong, he doesn’t reveal that every day, on the bus to school, Harry mocks him mercilessly for no apparent reason. One day, Penelope the pig hears Harry teasing Dakota, and steps in, chiding Harry for his ruthlessly mean behavior. Dakota then becomes nervous: Should he hide in the bathroom to avoid Harry? Should he go to the nurse? When Dakota is late for class and Harry calls him out, their teacher, Ms. Hippo, speaks to them both. She inquires about their former friendship, and about the endless teasing. Eventually, Harry breaks down and reveals details about his own life that he says are causing him to bully others. By the end of the day, everyone has a fresh perspective on what it means to be a friend. Henry-Johnson and Johnson’s debut has an excellent message, urging children and adults to walk a mile in other people’s shoes before judging them. It also shows how it’s far better to talk about one’s problems with a grownup or trusted friend instead of taking them out on others. It’s an important moral, especially in today’s age of cyberbullying. However, the message is diluted by the book’s middling execution, including distracting grammatical errors throughout (“its seven thirty honey”; “Moms’ must have special powers”). The book’s language may also be a bit advanced for very young readers, although parents or older readers can help fill in the blanks. On a brighter note, Asevedo’s illustrations are fun and colorful, and help to break up the long paragraphs and keep readers interested.
kids’ book with a fine message that’s obscured by uneven prose.