Picture Books – Dinosaur Woods

The signs are up: the woods are going to be demolished to make room for the Plas-tic Tree Factory. Seven animals who live in the forest are desperate to save their home. The clever fox realizes that since dinosaurs are amazing, if the animals can convince all of the humans that a dinosaur lives in the woods, then no one would want to chop the trees down. The plan does not go perfectly, but since it turns out that all of the animals are themselves endangered species, their idyllic home is saved.

Most books about cutting down trees, or about saving endangered species are incredibly didactic or sentimental, which this book, very refreshingly is not. It’s actually very interesting to examine the assumptions found in this book: it is never actually stated that the woods have become a nature preserve because the animals are endangered species. Nor are endangered species as a concept explained. The author presumes that the target audience – mostly preschool and kindergarten aged – would both recognize what it means to be endangered and be able to make the connection that this is why the woods are being declared a nature preserve. And you know what? I think he’s right. Most kids, even very young ones, raised in today’s world are familiar with these concepts. So kudos to the author for simply integrating this into the plot, instead of sidetracking the story to start having the animals “discuss” what it means to be endangered.

The mixed media illustrations work well and are appealing. The text itself is slyly funny, with the asides by the animals some of the most humorous aspects. This will surely be a winner both as a read aloud and in one-on-one sharing.

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