Tea Rex

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
Tea Rex Book Poster Image
Dinosaur learns tea party manners in clever, funny story.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Tea Rex opens and closes with illustrations of handwritten notes, modeling invitations and thank-you notes, and writing in general. There's also specific info about the elements needed for a tea party. And attention, teachers: The text can serve as a model for writing a how-to book.

Positive Messages

Since the kids never seem too upset by the dinosaur and his devastation, there's an implicit message of acceptance: Some friends are just more clumsy and inadvertently destructive than others. The hosts persevere rather than despair.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Tea Rex subtly breaks down gender expectations, with both a boy and a girl attending a tea party and hosting a dinosaur. And both maintain their manners under difficult circumstances.

Violence & Scariness

Despite the voracious T. Rex who almost eats the teddy bear, nothing's really scary. Though the dino has teeth, they're rounded rather than sharp, and the art signals friendship and fun.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that award-winning picture book illustrator Molly Idle (Caldecott Honor Book Flora and the Pink Flamingo) has created another winner with Tea Rex, in which a voracious dinosaur's invited to a children's tea part and wreaks havoc -- but no one gets hurt. T. Rex almost eats a teddy bear, but it's not really scary. The text is written as a dry, prescriptive how-to: "When everyone is settled, you may serve refreshments." But in the illustrations, chaos reigns -- food flies, and so do the kids -- making for a really funny contrast. With the unusual pairing of a tea party and a dinosaur, Tea Rex breaks down gender expectations and can appeal to both boys and girls. Young readers can embrace their love of a carefully set table and feed their fixation with dinosaurs.

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What's the story?

When Cordelia invites "Mr. Rex" to the tea party she's hosting with her little brother and his teddy bear, things do not go quite as planned. The text in this clever story is written as a manners book, with simple statements on the proper way to conduct oneself at a tea party. "Greet your guest at the door." "Introduce him to your other guests -- and offer him a comfortable chair." But when your guest is a Tyrannosaurus Rex, delicacy is dashed. T. Rex has to be pulled through the door, and his rump dwarfs the tiny heart-shaped parlor chair. He quickly devours the entire plate of refreshments and nearly swallows Teddy! After his departure (the kids have to push him back through the door), the hosts collapse, a little worse for wear. But all's well that ends well when they get a return invitation to a tea party hosted by Mr. Rex and his dinosaur friends.

Is it any good?

There's lots of humor here in this excellent marriage of text and art. The text is dry and droll, with advice on the proper way to conduct a tea party, stopping just short of advising the reader to crook a pinky while raising a china tea cup. But the art tells a very different story, one in which the guest, a T. Rex, smashes the china, pours the tea into a flowered picture hat, and roars when it's his turn to contribute small talk.

This T. Rex isn't malevolent, just exuberant and much too large for a proper tea party, and kids will love the joke. Not merely a one-joke story, TEA REX will stand up to multiple readings as kids scan the art for more humorous detail.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why the book is funny. Why does the text tell a different story than the art?

  • Have you ever been in a situation that got out of control? How did it make you feel? Did it end well?

  • Have you ever wanted to write a how-to book? About what? What information would you include?

Book details

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For kids who love picture books and strong female characters

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