Hello everyone! After a brief diversion into short films with Sharp Teeth, and Anthropocene extinctions with Small and Tall Tales of Extinct Animals, I thought it was about time for a return to form. Today we take a look Oh Say Can You Say Di-no-saur?, by Bonnie Worth and Steve Haefele. This book is part of The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library, a series of educational books starring Dr. Suess’s The Cat in the Hat who introduces readers to various topics, usual something related to the natural sciences. (I’ve also reviewed the “sequel” to this book, but more on that later.)
In true Suessian fashion, the book engages its readers with metered rhymes, making it a breeze to read to your kids, or for them to read on their own. While the facts presented are generally correct, they’re pretty generic and surface-level. Unless this is the only dinosaur book your kid has read, I guarantee they’ve already got the general gist of everything presented here. From a learning standpoint, its chief value is suggested by the title itself. The book takes great care in helping the reader properly pronounce the names of the dinosaurs, though since the vast majority of them are species with massive pop culture saturation, I consider it nearly a given most kids will already know how to pronounce all but a few of the creatures’ names.
The illustrations very much fit into the classic Suessian style, though this ultimately ends up to the detriment of the dinosaurs. Very few of them look at all accurate; indeed, many of them don’t look much like the real animal at all. A tail-dragging T-rex is a particular offender, as is a pack of rather portly and unfeathered Deinonychus.
On a positive note, the Archaeopteryx on pages 34 & 35 actually looks pretty good! The head looks more birdlike than the overly reptilian head many illustrators have given it in the past. In a similar vein, the wings look about right as well! The hands on many Archaeopteryx illustrations stick straight out of their wings, but as seen in this illustration, the feathers should attach to the hands, oriented in the same direction as the fingers. It’s nice to see this bit of detail at least in an otherwise lackluster book.
Now, I know some might ask what else I should expect from a Dr. Suess tie-in? Many publishers regard dinosaurs as a quick buck to be made off of kids, and one can’t expect too much from an intellectual property . I suppose that’s true, but given that kind of attitude towards what is ostensibly an educational book, I would rather it simply not get published in the first place. As it stands, Oh Say Can You Say Dinosaur? just doesn’t make my list of recommendations.
Can I come up with anything better? I’d like to think so, but given the confines of a Cat and the Hat book, could I actually come up with something? What would the ideal version of this book even look like? I struggle to think of a way to improve on the format… WAIT A MINUTE.
THIS. This book improves upon the formula so much better than I would have imagined a book of this nature ever could! But it deserves a whole review unto itself. Click here to continue on and read about Once Upon a Mastodon!
I really wanted to get this book for me when I was a kid, but its really bad looking back. My biggest issue is that it doesn’t have the fanciful, active, seussian flair you’d expect from the Cat in the Hat – just imagine seeing a displaying stegosaur or brachiosaur with a myriad of colours in Seuss’ style with their necks and tails whipping around to get a sense of what I mean. Instead, we get dull blobs with no energy made for a quick buck.
That was my general impression too. You should check out my review of “Once Upon a Mastodon”, though! It’s a much better book than this one, and even the Dr. Suess characters feel more “on-model”.