Katherine Kirkland, A Great Big Dinosaur Adventure, Koala Books, 1 July 2015, 15.99(pbk), 32pp., ISBN 978 1 74276 134 3
Katherine Kirkland is an American-born British illustrator whose work is published internationally. While she often illustrates other people’s texts, in this book she has created both story and pictures.
It tells the story of Oli, an oligokyphus which was a pre-mammalian animal. He sets out on his birthday to find the scariest dinosaur ever. None of his friends wants to come so he ventures forth on his own.
The first creature he encounters is a dryosaurus. Three of them accompany Oli on his quest and they next meet a stegosaurus, which joins the group. Their next addition is a diplodocus, which is very large. This is fortunate because they do finally meet a very scary dinosaur – an allosaurus.
While the whole story is obviously fictitious, some readers may prefer there to be more scientific accuracy. All of these prehistoric animals are anthropomorphised. Oli walks on his back legs which makes him look like a child, rather than on all four as a real oligokyphus. All of them can talk and they all have very friendly, benign facial expressions. While the full names of the dinosaurs are given with the correct pronunciation in a fact section on the relevant pages, characteristics attributed to them are rather imaginative. They are allocated a scariness factor, an intelligence score and descriptors such as ‘loves to tell adventurous stories’ or ‘loves practical jokes’. Also these creatures may not even have co-existed. According to some sources, oligokyphus lived in the late Triassic to early Jurassic period while the other species were all from the late Jurassic.
Despite the attractive illustrations with excellent use of colour and good layout and design, young readers will need to understand that the background knowledge given is in fact a humorous take on the topic. Those who are dinosaur aficionados will have no such problems.
reviewed by Lynne Babbage