Santa Rex

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
Santa Rex Book Poster Image
Holiday havoc and merry mayhem when dinosaurs are guests.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Shows traditions of Christmas, including hanging wreaths, paper chains, strings of popcorn, making cut-out snowflakes, baking Christmas cookies, hanging stockings, trimming tree, getting presents from Santa, and celebrating with friends. Some types of dinosaurs pictured but not named.

Positive Messages

When inviting friends to Christmas, "the more the merrier." "The real magic of the season is how Christmas brings everyone together." Underlying message about friends and acceptance: You can overlook clumsiness in loved ones, and the accidents they cause, when having fun and celebrating holidays.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Cordelia and her brother have a warm sibling relationship. They welcome their friends the dinosaurs. Though the dinosaurs are clumsy and wreak havoc, Cordelia and her brother take the accidents in stride and have fun with their friends.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Santa Rex is by author/illustrator Molly Idle, who scored a Caldecott Honor for her wordless book Flora and the Flamingo. This book is the fourth in her series of funny dinosaur books featuring T. rex (Tea Rex, Camp Rex). The formula for the series is that the text is dry and straightforward, while the art delivers the punch lines, revealing the mayhem caused by T. rex and friends. This book is set at Christmas and mentions the holiday and Santa by name, though it's not religious. No other holidays are mentioned. Cordelia is a blond girl and her brother has ginger-colored hair. The book can be used to introduce young readers to some of the main, nonreligious traditions of Christmas.

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What's the story?

In SANTA REX, Cordelia and her little brother welcome their Christmas guests: their old friends the dinosaurs, who've arrived determined to help with all the traditional preparations. They deck the halls with holiday decorations, bake Christmas cookies, hang stockings, trim the tree, and "go to bed early ... because Santa Claus won't come until you're fast asleep." The dinosaurs wreak holiday havoc, of course, though in the morning, there are presents under the T. rex tree. "But the real magic of the season is how Christmas brings everyone together."

Is it any good?

Like the previous picture books in this series, this one has straightforward text and raucous art. While the texts of previous books were written to mimic a manners book, a guidebook, and safety guidelines, Santa Rex is written as simple advice for celebrating the holiday, so it’s not as clearly a send-up of a genre, and the humor feels a bit softer. 

But the art's as fun as ever. While little brother wears an understated holiday sweater, there's nothing understated about the dinosaurs as they systematically destroy the house in the spirit of Christmas. When hanging stockings, they knock down the fireplace. When cutting snowflakes, T. rex shreds the curtain to make a dinosaur-sized design. And when setting the star at the top of the tree, he topples it, smashing ornaments and lights. So where will Santa leave the presents? On Christmas morning, the tree’s back up. It's Christmas magic! Or is it? Kids can open the fun foldout page to see who's now standing in for the tree.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the Christmas preparations in Santa Rex. Does your family celebrate Christmas or another holiday? What are your family holiday traditions?

  • Is the text funny? Are the pictures? How many funny jokes can you find in the art?

  • Have you read other stories about Cordelia and T. rex? Which are your favorites and why?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love holiday stories

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