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Book Review: Dinos from Space by Michael Treni, illustrations by Kristin Olivo

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What is it with kids and dinosaurs? Are children captivated by dinosaurs because they are such opposites: dinosaurs were (mostly) big, kids are (mostly) little; dinosaurs were relatively dumb, kids have a magnificent, growing, skills set; dinosaurs are extinct, kids aren’t.  Whatever the reason, there are literally thousands of books about dinosaurs.

Most of the dinosaur-themed books aimed at children that have crossed my desk are non-fiction. Dinos from Space is a fantasy, a story that puts forward “what if the dinosaurs weren’t wiped out; what if they weren’t so dumb?”

Author Michael Treni chose the comet-strike theory as the cause of extinction, and proceeds to debunk that myth with the story of what really happened. Treni tells the tale, in verse, of dinosaurs that were actually very intelligent and escaped earth in spaceships “built with dino skills.” After fifty-million years, dinosaurs return to earth and are less than pleased with what they find.

As smart as the dinosaurs were, they hadn’t counted on something crawling out of a pond and becoming man, multiplying rapidly and changing the face of the earth. Shopping malls, cities, towns, and airplanes dismayed them. They were not thrilled that their return didn’t make much of an impact, and were displeased with the lack of space and breathing room. They went so far as to consult The Idiot’s Guide to Humans, but apparently found no comfort there.

Doing as most of us would do when returning to our old neighborhoods only to find they have changed beyond belief, the dinosaurs shake their heads, jump in their ships, and take off again. Before leaving Earth, the dinosaurs tell the humans to clean up their act.

Brightly illustrated by Kristin Olivo, Dinos from Space sparks the imagination with images of dinosaurs that have human thought processes and feelings. Pre-school children through eight-year-olds who have discovered — and are in awe of — the world of dinosaurs are sure to enjoy it. Older children may not be impressed with the dinosaur’s threat of not coming back until earth is “fixed,” or buy into the fantasy of sentient, intelligent dinosaurs living shoulder-to-shoulder with humans in the modern world.

It’s fun to imagine renovating restaurants and movie theaters to accommodate the returning dinosaurs, and trying to get past a couple of gabbing dinosaurs stopped in the grocery aisle, catching up on old times. Dinos from Space offers many opportunities for imaginative discussion with its “what if” theme.

One of the more interesting points Dinos from Space makes flies in the face of traditional children’s stories. When confronted with unwelcome change, the dinosaurs don’t try to make it in a hostile world, they leave. This is a far cry from the success-at-great-effort stories like “The Little Engine that Could.” These dinosaurs aren’t hung up on making a situation work, they tell us “if you’re not happy, move on,” or “pick your battles.” Clearly, sorting out Earth’s problems was not a battle worth fighting.

Bottom Line: Would I buy Dinos from Space? Yes, for young dinosaur enthusiasts.

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