Monday, April 3, 2017

Dad and the Dinosaur, by Gennifer Choldenko -- finding courage together (ages 4-8)

I've been thinking about courage lately, what it takes to face our fears and how we can help children when they feel overwhelmed. I've certainly felt completely afraid of both real and imagined things--sometimes so that I could hardly move. I love how Gennifer Choldenko's newest picture book, Dad and the Dinosaur, normalizes this fear, and lets us know that we can move forward.
Dad and the Dinosaur
by Gennifer Choldenko
illustrated by Dan Santat
G.P. Putnam / Penguin, 2017
Amazon / Your local library
ages 4-8
Nicholas is afraid of so many things, but his dad isn't afraid of anything. "Nicholas tried to be brave like his dad, but he needed help ... big help. He needed a dinosaur." This small toy dinosaur travels everywhere with Nicholas, in his pocket, tied to his swimsuit, tucked inside his soccer socks.

Gennifer Choldenko and Dan Santat are a terrific team here, showing Nicholas's courage as the dinosaur helps make him strong. Just look at how the dinosaur helps him score the winning soccer goal when he played against the goalie they called Gorilla:
"But no worries. Nicholas had his dinosaur and his dinosaur was fearless. He kicked the ball so hard it shot past Gorilla's oven-mitt-size hands straight into the net."
Part of me expected the story to take the "tough love" approach when Nicholas loses his dinosaur. As an adult, I know that he really has the courage inside him to survive without his toy. And yet, Choldenko takes a different route--showing how accepting and supportive his dad is.
"'Where are you two going at this hour?'
'It's guy stuff,' his father answered as they walked out the door."
By taking his son to go find his dinosaur, Nicholas's dad sends the message that he believes in him. This acknowledges the child's reality and lets him overcome his fear in his own way. Best of all, it creates a bond between father and son, a trust that will help Nicholas keep finding courage in his own way.

Santat's illustrations seamlessly move between the real and the imaginary, showing the dinosaur as part of both in a very real way. Young readers will love the way the dinosaur looms larger than life, boosting Nicholas's courage. It will be fascinating having kids compare this new book to Santat's Caldecott winning The Adventures of Beekle.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Penguin Random House. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

No comments:

Post a Comment