105 Ways to Give a Book

“Their Bodies Burned Away to Nothing”

I have very fond memories of reading to my daughters from the classic Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs, by Byron Barton. The text in this book is almost hypnotic in its very simplicity: “There were big dinosaurs, and small dinosaurs. There were fierce dinosaurs, and scared dinosaurs.” Though by far my favorite part about this book is how seamlessly it turns from a book about dinosaurs into a going-to-bed book. “There were hungry dinosaurs, and very tired and very, very sleepy dinosaurs.”

But, as a child gets older, he or she may want a little more information about these fascinating creatures. But how much is too much information? For me, it’s represented this passage from a beginning reader book:
The fireball smashed into the ground.
Tyrannosaurus Rex died instantly.
The Pteranodons
were blown from the sky.
Their bodies
burned away to nothing.
The Day the Dinosaurs DiedLovely, isn’t it? That’s from The Day the Dinosaurs Died, an I Can Read book from Charlotte Lewis Brown. Nothing I like better for my beginning reader than a little death and destruction. Now, I understand that there are a lot of little boys and some little girls that looove dinosaurs. There are probably even many little boys and some little girls who will be thrilled by the blunt description and pretty graphic pictures of the end of the dinosaurs. But for the others, and for the sensitive me, I think that’s a bit intense. But perhaps it’s the picture of the Triceratops surrounded by flames that really puts it over the top — the Tricera-top. Not violent enough for you? How about a dead Parasaurolophus with its tongue hanging out and these words:
One by one they began to die.
Soon there was only one left.
Then she too starved away.
Does this seem a little much for seven- and eight-year-olds? Or in view of the many five-year-olds I saw at every Jurassic Park movie I went to see, is this stuff just standard these days?


Leila the Great said...

Oh, Jeez Louise. It's like the first ten minutes of The Land Before Time. Brutal.

Daniel said...

Bleah! that's just a little too brutal. I know that I usually espouse a bit of reality in childrens' reading material, but there's something I don't like about the tone of the pieces you quoted. I realize, of course, that if we had coexisted with dinosaurs, most of them would have looked at humans as the equivalent of Spam--a reasonably defenseless, effortless tasty snack. Nevertheless, I think that most kids perceive dinosaurs as these way cool animal friends. I sure did as a beginning reader; one of my fave books was a dinosaur book. So, in effect, reading about the unpleasant death of these cool animals is almost like reading about the death of the cute fuzzy animals we actually *do* live with, and especially when the description is phrased in such a...well, brutal way. I don't think I'd want to pick this one for my (theoretical) kids.