Mungo and the Dinosaur Island

written by Timothy Knapman
illustrated by Adam Stower

Timothy Knapman's Mungo and the Dinosaur Island
illustrated by Adam Stower

Book review by Susan Syddall

Ages 4+

Dinosaurs and Pirates Like You've Never Seen Them Before!

If you thought that pirates go in search of treasure, I've got news for you!

Some pirates actually prefer to search for the Utterly Fluttery Butterfly! Well, they do in the hilarious children's picture book, "Mungo and the Dinosaur Island!" written by Timothy Knapman and illustrated by Adam Stower.

Book review - Mungo and the Dinosaur Island

This is a book my boys and I thoroughly enjoy reading together. I'm sure all the neighbours know when we're reading it due to the unruly laughing coming from our lounge room.

Most children, particularly boys, love dinosaurs. They also love pirates. Put them both together in one book and you've got a recipe for success. This is a book that truly captures the imagination of children ... and the adults privileged enough to read to them!

I love the writing style of Knapman. He includes vocabulary that isn't normally found in the majority of picture books. This is brilliant because it challenges and extends children. His writing respects children's ability to learn!

A word of warning: this is a book that you need to pre-read before you try reading it aloud to a group of children. It takes a bit to get your mouth around some phrases such as "rascally rapscallions" if it's not a phrase you normally use every day!

There's also all the dinosaur names to master such as stegosaurus, pterodactyl, dipolodocus, triceratops, brachiosaurus ... but it's a wonderful feeling when you can read these words aloud and as efficiently as the preschoolers of today who seem to be born knowing how to pronounce these names!

As for the illustrations ... they're adorable. They full of detail, brilliant colours and have been skilfully created! They capture and expand on the text making this book a vibrant visual treasure.

I love the humour the author and illustrator have woven into every page. The most unexpected things happen - such as the pirate ship crashing into a light spangled sign, in the middle of the ocean, pointing the way to the Lost Island.

Colossal grey rocks aren't what they first appear. Nor is it the biggest dinosaur which saves the day. Rather it's a relatively small green dinosaur which proves to be the bravest dinosaur who ever lived - or at least, the smartest!

As for the rest of the dinosaurs, they're larger than life. They actually crawl out of the book Mungo is reading and invade his bedroom. Of course, Mungo then goes back into the book to help save the dinosaurs which are being stuffed, by greedy pirates, into tiny cages!

Book review - Mungo and the Dinosaur Island

In all my years of teaching, I've noticed that young children, especially boys, find the words "underpants" and "bottom" extremely funny. Why? I'm still trying to work that out. However, these words appear in this book, politely and respectfully, and the boys in our house found the context extremely funny. The author certainly understands the mindset of his young readers ... and their parents who are striving to teach them manners!

This book provides a great opportunity to talk about what is real and what is imaginary. Yes, the dinosaurs did roam the earth once, but they are now confined to the pages of story books and the halls of museums. No, they probably weren't, regrettably, all the colours of the rainbow!

The story could also be used to create rich language experiences by encouraging children to think and talk about what would happen if dinosaurs (or other story characters) crept out of books they read!

Finally, here's some good news! There are two more books in this series ... Mungo and the Spiders from Space and Mungo, Picture Book Pirates.

There'll be no prizes for guessing which books I'm going in search of next! If they're anything like Mungo and the Dinosaur Island, our neighbours are going to have to buy ear muffs or put up with the noisy laughing resulting from our story time!

Read more of Susan's reviews.

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