Dad and the Dinosaur

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
Dad and the Dinosaur Book Poster Image
Dad helps son manage fears in kind story full of empathy.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Shows some common fears: fear of the dark, fear of bugs, fear of heights, fear of creepy things underground.

Positive Messages

"It's okay to be afraid. All guys are now and then." A comfort item can help you cope with your fears. Telling someone about your fears -- or a secret about yourself -- can help you deal with your feelings and feel better. It's good to respect other people's feelings and not judge them or put them down for being afraid. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Nick's dad is very understanding, empathetic, and respectful of Nick's feelings. He helps him open up about his fears and helps him feel better by taking him to find his comfort item, the toy dinosaur. Nick's mom is loving and encouraging but is not clued into Nick's deep fears, instead focusing on his "brave" accomplishments. Nick is fearful but able to share that he's afraid and relies on his toy to help him conquer his fears and accomplish tough tasks.

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Dad and the Dinosaur, by Newbery Honor-winning author Gennifer Choldenko (Al Capone Does My Shirts) and illustrated by Caldecott Medal-winning illustrator Dan Santat (Beekle, Are We There Yet?), tells the story of a fearful boy who feels braver when he has his tiny toy dinosaur with him. After he loses it while playing in a soccer match, he gets very anxious. But his understanding dad acknowledges his son's feelings and helps him find the beloved dino again. This is a sensitive and entertaining story full lof empathy that's a great choice for parents looking to help kids deal with fears.

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What's the story?

DAD AND THE DINOSAUR BEGINS by contrasting a boy and his dad: "Nicholas was afraid of the dark outside his door, the bushes where the giant bugs lived, and the undersides of manhole covers. His dad was not afraid of anything." When he has his toy dinosaur with him (it's small enough to fit in a pocket or in his soccer sock), "Little Nick" feels as brave as "Big Nick." But after he loses it during a soccer match, he's gripped by fear on the drive home, imagining giant bugs in the street and and a black octopus-like creature reaching for their car from under a manhole cover. Late that night, his dad comforts him by saying, "It's okay to be afraid. All guys are now and then." Then he takes Nick back to the field to find the dinosaur that helps him feel braver.

Is it any good?

This gentle story of a fearful boy and his loving, understanding dad is both relatable and engaging, with wonderful art that helps readers understand the main character's feelings. Author Gennifer Choldenko's text shows Nick's dad respecting Nick's feelings and not telling him just to suck it up, like some parents might. Dan Santat's imaginative illustrations depict not only Nick's fears but also how he imagines a real giant dino helping him climb a rock wall, send a soccer ball over a tough goalie's hands, and help him sleep at night. 

Dad and the Dinosaur is great for opening up a discussion about common fears and how sharing your secrets, fears, and feelings with someone you trust can help you feel better. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how fear is shown in Dad and the Dinosaur. What are you afraid of? What helps you manage your fears? 

  • Whom can you talk to about your fears and not feel judged? 

  • Do you have a special toy or other item that helps you feel safe and comfortable? What would you do if you lost it? 

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