Monday, October 06, 2008

Review: Dinosaur Vs. Bedtime

You can’t really go wrong with a title for anything that starts with the words “Dinosaur Vs.” There is literally nothing you can follow those words up with that I wouldn’t want to read about.

Seriously, think of the most boring thing you can, and I bet a dinosaur fighting it would still be an interesting story. Dinosaur Vs. The Dow Jones Industrial Average? Dinosaur Vs. The Mandatory Second Reading of Contracts at a School Board Meeting? Dinosaur Vs. A Clinically Depressed Person Watching Daytime Television With the Sound Muted? Dinosaur Vs. Your Cousin’s Interminably Long Graduation Ceremony?

Those all sound awesome. Dinosaurs and fighting just add drama to each and every situation.

So Bob Shea’s new children’s picture book Dinosaur Vs. Bedtime is off to a great start from the very title. Shea, by the way, is an artist, animator and children’s book creator whose previous work includes New Socks, which I didn’t like very much. The art was superb, and he captured the feeling of excitement that sometimes comes with new socks (particularly when you’re young and not in charge of when you get to wear new socks and when you don’t), but it was otherwise pretty pointless. (Ha ha, I’m 31 years old and criticizing a children’s book for not having a point! What’s wrong with me?)

So the story here is that there’s this dinosaur, right? He’s bipedal, red and has a mouth full of very sharp teeth, delineated by a black zigzag over a white crescent shape in the middle of his head. So he’s of the Tyrannosaur variety, although he’s scaled to everyday objects. So he’s like a kid-sized dinosaur in our modern world—or maybe a kid who thinks it’s a dinosaur and the illustrations show his mental image. Don’t think too hard about it; no good will come of it.

After a two-page introduction—“ROAR! I’m A Dinosaur! ROAR! Nothing Can Stop Me!”—the dinosaur proceeds to stomp and roar off to face a variety of “challenges,” each presented in that same pro-wrestling match sort of billing. Dinosaur Vs. A Pile of Leaves! Dinosaur Vs. A Big Slide! Dinosaur Vs. A Bowl of Spaghetti!

He wins each of these in the obvious way—jumping in the leaves, sliding down the slide, eating the bowl of spaghetti—and roaring about it, and each triumph leads to a page declaring “Dinosaur Wins!”

These are all just warm-ups to the biggest conflict, bedtime. Can he defeat bedtime? Spoiler Warning! No, he can’t. Dressed in a pajama top, he roars and roars until he roars himself to sleep—the little guy just plain tuckered himself out.

Shea’s art style is a knock-out—it’s like professional quality kid’s art, with super-simple designs and lines that seem made with crayons, the colors often smudging outside the lines he makes. His dinosaur looks a bit like a big, red kidney bean (the bespectacled baby bird in New Socks was also bean-shaped), or a heart standing on it’s side, with arms, legs and Godzilla-like scales and a tail attached.

The book seems like it would be quite a fun one to read with a little kid, given how much roaring goes on. It certainly lends itself to the grown-up acting out the roars and talking in a melodramatic voice, and the child into roaring along. Plus, it has a dinosaur. As much as I love dinosaurs now, I remember loving them about a thousand times more back when I still had a bedtime.

I didn’t bother scanning any images out of it, because Shea’s own website has plenty of nice images,, so you should check that out here.

Also, here’s Shea himself reading scenes from the book, and animated versions of his art appearing on the screen, from Noggin:

(Shea also draws really good bears).


Bob said...

Hey thanks!

And yes, New Socks is pointless. But when you're under 5, character development and story arc isn't that big a deal.

And thanks for the links to my site!

Sea_of_Green said...

This is GREAT! I HAVE to get this for Mighty Mite. Problem is, Mighty Mite thinks SHE's a dinosaur.