Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Bolivar Book Poster Image
Beautiful story of misunderstood dinosaur in big city.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Museums showcase important artifacts, natural history displays, and work by Hopper, Degas, and more.

Positive Messages

You can miss the most amazing things if you aren't paying attention. When you don't make an effort to get to know others with an open heart and mind, you risk making incorrect assumptions. It's important to stand up and help those being unfairly targeted.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Bolivar tries to be a model citizen: He's polite and respectful and follows the rules in his neighborhood. He's fond of all that New York City has to offer. Sybil is persistent and patient, taking a strategic approach to trying to prove the dinosaur's existence. She's empathetic, understanding Bolivar's worries and reaching out to him with friendship and kindness.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Bolivar is a gentle graphic novel about a dinosaur who just wants to be left alone but becomes the target of public hysteria. Author-illustrator Sean Rubin touches on themes of prejudice and being fully present in this disarming love letter to New York City, packed with broad cityscapes and affectionate portrayals of the diverse and quirky residents that make it unique.

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What's the story?

BOLIVAR is a quiet dinosaur who doesn't like attention, which is why he lives in New York City: Everyone is too busy to notice him. Except for his neighbor, a young girl named Sybil who spots him on the street, at the art museum, and at his favorite deli, but she can't get any adults to believe her. A mistaken parking ticket prompts Bolivar to venture to City Hall, where he's swept up in a chain of events that results in citywide panic over fears of a carnivorous, rampaging beast. Bolivar wants to disappear back into his solitary life, but Sybil wants to help New Yorkers see him for what he really is: a gentle neighbor who loves books, music, and the city they share.

Is it any good?

Picture book meets graphic novel in this sweet, funny, and beautifully illustrated debut by Sean Rubin about an unassuming dinosaur who's hiding in plain sight amid the bustle of New York City. Like Lovable Lyle, about another famous reptile in the city, Bolivar approaches complex conversations about prejudice and neighborliness with humor and affection for city life.

Sybil's pursuit of her elusive neighbor pulls readers into the pages and into the lives of these two very different neighbors. Crosshatched illustrations in a warm palette of muted greens and golden yellow are a nod to the work of Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson and Maurice Sendak. Rubin packs his scenes with wonderful details, from the chaos of Sybil's class to tiny in-jokes like a reference to Jurassic Park and the number to call to complain about parking tickets: 1-800-NYC-YELL.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Sybil's difficulty getting adults to hear her in Bolivar. Do you think many adults are good listeners with children? How do you make sure adults really pay attention to you?

  • Does this feel like a picture book or a graphic novel?

  • What kind of assumptions might you be making about neighbors or other people you don't know well?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dinosaurs and graphic novels

Themes & Topics

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