The Girl and the Dinosaur by Hollie Hughes & Sarah Massini

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Published by Bloomsbury, 2019.

The Girl and the Dinosaur is an absolutely stunning picture book. I was drawn to it as soon as I saw the striking cover which – with its silver-foiled moon – is even more beautiful up close.

It’s the story of a young girl called Marianne who lives in a seaside town and spends her days alone, digging on the beach for dinosaur bones. Her patience is rewarded and eventually she uncovers all the bones needed to piece together a complete skeleton. She names him Bony and promises to be his friend.

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At bedtime Marianne makes a wish for her new dinosaur friend to come to life. There is magic in the air and the stars grant her wish. Bony comes to life! He taps on Marianne’s lighthouse bedroom window and she climbs out of the window and slides down his bendy neck. The two of them begin a magical, moonlit adventure. They bob on the sea, race through an enchanted forest, and soar through the sky to a magical land in the clouds. Here Marianne meets lots of other children with their dinosaur friends. They play together until sleep calls them back to their beds.

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The story is told in lyrical rhyming text and there are some lovely internal rhymes too. It’s a pleasure to read aloud. The language is rich and evocative and the final pages read like a lullaby. 

As for the illustrations, I love everything that Sarah Massini illustrates! Her style is beautiful – charming and nostalgic and so full of warmth. I love how the vivid red of Marianne’s hair is mirrored elsewhere in the illustrations: in the boat’s red hull, in the red stripes of the helter-skelter, in the red of the town’s rooftops… Sarah uses such a gorgeous warm colour palette: the golds and blues of balmy summer’s days on the beach, the apricot skies of the magical dreamland at dawn.

My four-year-old son’s favourite spread is the dreamlike land in the clouds that Marianne and her dinosaur fly to. It’s described as “a party place for children and the creatures from their dreams” and the children are having so much fun there! They swim, dance and play hide and seek. Some slide down the long neck of a diplodocus, others paddle in log boats along a river, or ride on the back of dinosaurs. There even seem to be trees producing candy floss. As you can tell, we’ve pored over these pages at length. I love the illustration of the enchanted forest; there are delicate fairies that glow like fireflies, tiny lamp-lit windows in the trunk of a tree, unicorns, giants and even a centaur.

The Girl and the Dinosaur is a magical, poetic picture book full of the endless possibilities and imagination of childhood. 

Rating: 💙💙💙💙💙

Suitable for children aged 3+

Thank you to Bloomsbury for sending me this book to review.

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