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Review: The Girl and the Dinosaur by Hollie Hughes and Sarah Massini

Updated: May 8, 2021

A beautifully whimsical picture book about the power of childhood imagination and the magic of dreams.

"The wishing stars burn bright that night, the air is thick with dreams, and a deeply sleeping dinosaur is waking up it seems..."

⁠⁠This absolutely gorgeous picture book is about a girl called Marianne who spends her days digging for dinosaur bones on the beach where she lives. As the adults look on at the solitary girl, they worry about her lack of friends. But when Marianne finally uncovers a dinosaur, she knows that she has found a magical best friend and wishes for the dinosaur to come to life.

That night, while all the adults are asleep, the dinosaur wakes up and takes her on an fantastical and playful adventure. She gallops through fairy lands to a dream playground in the sky where there are other children and dinosaurs. They play the night away and return home without the grown-ups knowing anything about their night time adventures.

Marianne begins the story as a solitary digger who the adults worry about not having friends, but by the end she is joined by lots of other children digging for their very own dinosaurs.⁠

I loved the imaginary world in the clouds where all of the children ended up playing with their dream dinosaurs. The book shows us that this is a world that the adults cannot fathom or interfere in, but belongs to the children alone. It is such a whimsical and almost ethereal look at the rich inner worlds of childhood imagination which are just as real to children as the world around them and, on occasion, even more so. A world that most adults have forgotten! However, it is worth discussing the statement about secrets: at the end, on their way home, the children have 'secret memories to keep from grown-up heads'. I would definitely have a discussion around secrets and when it is safe to keep them, like a surprise party, and when it is not.

A female lead character in a children's book is still a rare enough thing to draw me to it, but a female lead who digs for and dreams about dinosaurs meant this was a must-have title for me. It shows that dinosaurs and digging are not just for boys, but can be enjoyed by anyone! I found it interestong that the dinosaur is not given a gender at all in the book, with only the pronoun 'they' being used for it. I think this would raise an interesting discussion with children as this is a book which will help them to question traditional gender roles.

Hollie Hughes' lyrical rhymes and rich vocabulary communicate the power of play and possibility, while Sarah Massini's beautiful, soft illustrations perfectly capture the rich and imaginary places that children can find themselves in. There is so much detail to examine and delight in throughout the book that it is sure to be one that is returned to again and again. This makes a perfect bedtime read which will hopefully send children off to their own dream playgrounds, full of dinosaurs and magic.

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