Mo Willem's Edwina: The Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct
Children's book review by Steve Barancik
It's a Hollywood staple: the hero living in a crazy world where no one else can see what's obvious to him.
Think, for instance, of any horror movie you've ever seen. One bright character knows that the neighbors might look like the neighbors, but they sure don't act like the neighbors. Therefore, they must have turned into zombies.
Usually, in Hollywood, it's the character who recognizes the obvious who survives. We identify with him and like to think that - if we were in the movie world - we'd know the truth too.
But it's a rather horrifying situation, and it doesn't occur just in Hollywood. Think of that acquaintance of yours who your wife/children/parents find "nice," but you know what a total derelict he is. Why can't they see it?
It can make you crazy when other people don't see the obvious. And that's why I identified with Reginald Von Hoobie-Doobie in Edwina - the Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct.
Reginald reads the books. He watches the Discovery Channel. He could write you a thesis or a theorem proving dinosaurs are extinct. Only Reginald has a major problem...
His town's most prominent citizen...Edwina the dinosaur.
There's really no denying she's a dinosaur. She's huge. She's green. And frankly, Reginald doesn't even have an explanation for her existence. He just knows that she's not supposed to be.
It's a much more frustrating predicament than that of the kid who has determined there's no Santa Claus. He can prove that those guys dressed up as Santa aren't the real thing.
But Reginald has the very fact of Edwina to cope with. It makes him crazy.
He tries to explain to everyone. He tries to prove to everyone. But no one believes him. After all, Edwina just handed them a chocolate-chip cookie.
But give Reginald credit; he takes his case to the top. He corrals Edwina herself and explains to her just how extinct she is. His argument is so persuasive that he actually convinces her.
But what he can't do is convince her to care. She just goes right back to her carefree dinosaur ways. And without even trying to convince Reginald...
She convinces him not to care too. And you know what? He's happier for it.
Which is precisely the message that gave this dour skeptic pause. Hmm. I loved the book. Now, how do I feel about spreading its message? (And how overseriously am I taking this???)
Personally, I question the existence of, well, nearly everything. What if Edwina were something else, the existence of which shouldn't really be in doubt.
Say, climate change. Do I really want tonight's bedtime message to be
Sure, the planet is dying - or at least frying - but we have a lot more fun in our SUV with the 17 TV screens than we would in a Prius, right? So let's just pretend climate change isn't happening.
"Good night, Dad. Thanks for the story. And to heck with those silly rainforests!"
Sigh. So here's why I'm coming down on the side of recommending Mo Willems' Edwina - the Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct.
For starters, it's that smile on Reginald's face on the last page, as Edwina bakes him some chocolate-chip cookies. Surely, the weight of the world doesn't belong on his five year old shoulders.
But also, it occurs to me that Edwina - the Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct offers a wonderful opportunity to discuss what we know, what we believe, and what it's like to believe something different than everyone else.
Let's face it: Mo Willems knows kids. (Read my rave review of his instant classic, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.) So long as you don't take Edwina the Dinosaur as the last word on science vs. belief - use her instead as the beginning of a learning moment - I think she deserves a place in any child's bookcase.
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