How to Look After Your Dinosaur is one of the few picture books about dinosaurs that we could find when we were looking for books with a BAME boy as the main character. Delightfully written and illustrated by award-wining artist, Jason Cockcroft, it takes a distinctly cuddly approach to portraying a T-Rex that is sure to appeal to younger readers.
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Masquerading as an instruction manual for new dinosaur owners, the story starts on the half title page. A postman struggles with an enormous parcel that is, unmistakably, an egg. There’s a poster advertising some kind of egg sale, but, alas, exactly what is obscured by another poster.
Of course, the big ‘DINOSAUR’ stamped onto the parcel is a bit of a give-away, but my kids still love to speculate. And yes, they usually get it right!
We meet the lucky new dino-owner on the title page proper. I love the detail of the drink absent-mindedly spilt drink and the slightly agape mouth. All this tells us quite clearly that this egg must be quite a lot bigger than the boy was expecting!
And as the egg cracks, and the dinosaur emerges, the book begins with ‘Congratulations on your new pet!’ This is the start of a lovely contrast throughout the book between what the instructions are saying, and what the pictures are telling us.
Whether it’s the chaos caused by a dinosaurs’ appetite (thankfully for bananas and toast, rather than little boy), or the challenge posed by a mountain of dino-poo, it’s hilariously clear that our instruction manual is understating the size of the task at every turn.
Rare is the child who doesn’t find poo funny, and this is, it has to be said, the highlight of the book for my two! They point out every single time that the boy needs a wheelbarrow and spade to poo scoop this amount of manure, and there’s a lot of gross appreciation for the realistic cloud of flies buzzing around it.
Friends for life
As the book progresses, it’s clear that the boy and his dino are becoming fast friends. The dinosaur chaos becomes more and more enjoyable, as told by the boy’s growing smile. By the time they flood the bathroom with bubbles, it’s obvious that the two have become inseparable. Even the boy’s dog looks happy with the new arrival.
Parents everywhere will appreciate the skilful way that the fun and games of earlier pages is gradually wound down to a peaceful bedtime cuddle. A dinosaur seems to be the best type of pet (no offence to the dog!), and the other children in the book clearly agree.
On the very last page, the postman reappears. This time, he is carrying parcels for some excited children ready and waiting. And the poster in the background this time says ‘Dino Sale – Buy One, Get One Free’…
About the author
This is Jason Cockcroft’s first picture book as author and illustrator, but he’s no newcomer to Children’s books. As an illustrator, he has been nominated for the Kate Greenaway Medal and he won the very first Blue Peter Book Award for A Pilgrim’s Progress. He also illustrated the original UK covers of the last three Harry Potter books. Including my absolute favourite cover for The Order of the Phoenix.
You can read about his experience illustrating Chris Packham’s non-fiction Amazing Animal series here. Or follow Jason Cockcroft’s instructions on adding colour and energy to a children’s picture book character here.
Buy the book
How to Look After Your Dinosaur is available from Amazon here, in both paperback and hardback formats.
Picture Books with Diverse Characters
Have you seen my full list of the best 23 picture books with diverse characters? Just like How to Look After Your Dinosaur, all of these picture books feature black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) boys as main characters. Something that’s as rare as proverbial hen’s teeth in children’s books, and a problem I’ve written about here.
Check out the list to find out more about our favourites, and take a peek inside. If you like the look of this book, I’m sure you’ll find some others to love there too!
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