Tyrannosaurus Drip by Julia Donaldson
|Tyrannosaurus Drip by Julia Donaldson|
|Genre: For Sharing|
|Reviewer: Magda Healey|
|Summary: A clever plant-eater gets one up on nasty & stupid T-rexes in this hilarious and inspirational dinosaur take on the ugly-duckling story. Great rhyming text, excellent pictures: highly recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 32||Date: July 2007|
|Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books|
The career that dinosaurs made in popular culture never ceases to astonish me: from Jurassic Park to Dintopia to Walking with Dinosaurs, but particularly in countless books, cartoons, feature length films, toys and games for pre-school aged and bit older children. I have to confess that the dino-mania has never particularly got hold of me (although I did, actually, have a plum-coloured small one living behind a hidden gate on the way to my kindergarten). I suspect the appeal must have something to do with the fact that dinosaurs are semiotically "anomalous" creatures: both real (with their reality confirmed by science) and un-real (has anybody ever seen one?), dwelling on this borderline between fantasy and science that produces such rich field for modern genre entertainments.
Leaving the theory of dinosaur semiotics aside, Tyrannosaurus Drip is a hilarious and very satisfactory dinosaur-based take on the ugly duckling story. A plant-eating Duckbilled Dinosaur egg finds its way into the nest of the terrifying, stupid bullies that are T-Rexes. When he hatches, he can't bring himself to sing the bloodthirsty battle anthem of the T's nor eat any meat - in fact, he's so feeble by T's' standards that his two sisters name him Drip.
I have a slightly ambivalent attitude to the Ugly Duckling archetype, as it can be read in two ways: one is to do with finding and following, one's "true identity", against the social (including family) pressure to conform. Drip does it with gusto and style, and definitely comes up trumps. The other side of the ugly-duckling model, however, implies that "you are what you are" - that everybody has their essential nature which is discovered rather than created, thus largely hereditary and that, essentially, you can't make a duck out of a swan (or a T-rex out of a Duckbill). I always feel like contrarily quoting You can't turn a pig into a race horse, but you can turn it into a very fast pig . However, this has little bearing on our story, as the superiority of being a Duckbill (moral, aesthetic and intelectual) is unquestionable here. Drip manages not only to find his duckbilled compatriots, but also to dispatch the whole savage T-family to the universal acclaim of other dinosaurs and can now happily spend the rest of his days eating water weeds and being treated as a hero by other Duckbills. The cleverness and determination of the nice guy is celebrated, and the brutal, stupid force embodied by the T's is penalised.
The verse is signature Donaldson at her best: natural, smooth, rhythmical, supremely readable aloud and very, very funny; to the extent that I laughed while overhearing my husband reading it to our daughter.
The illustrations are also excellent. I am very glad to see more Donaldson picture books not illustrated by Axel Scheffler. Not that he's not a very competent, well liked illustrator, but not necessarily my favourite and besides that, the illustrations by David Roberts match the spirit of the text perfectly. Slightly surreal, but in a modern, angular rather than dreamy way; dynamic, with enough detail to engage and no pretence at being sweet at all; and again, hilariously funny.
Amazon classifies this title in the 5-8 years old bracket, but this is only assuming the child themselves was to read the text. The story is definitely an older preschooler story, and I would highly recommended it for reading aloud to pre-schoolers and maybe even P1 and P2s with shorter attention spans who tend to like picture books.
Big thanks to the publishers for sending this great picture book to the Bookbag.
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Tracy B said:
I haven't read this book -yet, although Julia has produced some superb books that our family love. I'm really pleased that she has introduced another one and was interested in the observation that this one isn't illustrated by Axel for a change. I'll look forward to reading this in the not too distant future.