Book: Tiara Saurus Rex
Author: Brianna Caplan Sayres
Illustrator: Mike Boldt
Age Range: 5-7
Tiara Saurus Rex, by Brianna Caplan Sayres and Mike Boldt, is a dinosaur book for tiara-wearing, dress-up-loving girls (or a beauty pageant book for dinosaur-obsessed boys who have a yen for sparkle, I suppose). The Miss Dinosaur pageant is taking place. Dinosaurs of various types prance about, excited, in their fancy clothes. But one by one, the other dinosaurs disappear from view, to the refrain: "Beware ... Tina has to win." Tina Saurus Rex eventually wins the crown because "There are no other girls."
There is a twist at the end involving one remaining dinosaur, but the others are never seen again. For tender-hearted readers, there is a hint that the others have run away, rather than, say, been eaten by Tina. But I say it's no coincidence that the "Saurus Rex" is the last one standing.
Sayres uses rhyming text with enough variation in structure to keep it from being sing-songy. Like this (over 3 page spreads):
"Dino pageant day is here!
They stampede through the door.
Each creature hopes that she'll be crowned
the next Miss Dinosaur.
They put their lipstick on with care,
give their mirrors one last stare.
But makeup artists warn, "Beware...
Tina has to win.""
She uses strong vocabulary works like "contender" and "brilliant." This vocabulary, combined with the mystery around the disappearance of most of the characters, makes me agree with the publisher's recommendation of five and up for Tiara Saurus Rex. Personally, I found the text a bit stilted in places. But I did enjoy the puns that Sayres uses for some of the dinosaur names, like "Teri Dactyl" and "Sarah Topps". She conveys facts about these dinosaur types, too, with Teri flying about, and Sarah using her three horns to twirl hula hoops.
Illustrator Mike Boldt (123 versus ABC) clearly delights in displaying the dinosaurs, particularly Tina, with her sly smile. The dinosaurs are not shown to scale, exactly, and they are shown in brighter colors than one normally sees used for dinosaurs (purple, teal, orange). But there are enough visual clues for interested readers to tie these dinosaurs to those shown in more traditional representations. And for those who just care about the beauty pageant, well, they can appreciate the emeralds used to decorate the spines of Stef O'Saurus, and the four-inch heels in Patty Saurus's broad feet. Boldt uses a riot of color, and an appropriate mix of preening and nervous expressions. Tina's tiara, as well as the letters of the title, are sparkly on the cover of my advanced copy.
And there you have it. A hybrid beauty pageant / dinosaur book, with rhyming text and over-the-top illustrations. Tiara Saurus Rex is not going to be for everyone, but it stands a good chance of broadening the perspective of dress-up fans and dinosaur fans alike, blurring traditional gender boundaries along the way.
Publisher: Bloomsbury (@BWKids)
Publication Date: February 17, 2015
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher
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