Lulu and the Brontosaurus by Judith Viorst and Lane Smith

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Lulu and the Brontosaurus by Judith Viorst and Lane Smith

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: A fun, action-packed story that's great to read aloud but also works well as a first chapter book.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 128 Date: February 2011
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Books
ISBN: 978-0857071477

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Lulu is every parent's worst nightmare. She always, always gets what she wants, quite often by rolling around on the floor screaming until the light bulbs pop. She is, quite simply, a child in desperate need of Supernanny! For her birthday Lulu decides she would like a Brontosaurus. Her parents, for once, say no, and no amount of screaming makes them change their mind. So Lulu sets off into the forest to find a brontosaurus by herself. The trouble is, when she finally does find one he isn't too keen on the idea of being her pet and actually would much prefer that she became his pet!

There's a lot to like about this story. Kids always get a kick out of badly behaved children, and Lulu is truly a horror child! She is instantly recognisable as a whiny spoilt girl who always gets her own way, so you know from the start that things are not going to go well for her! She meets various scary animals en route through the forest who she deals with deftly. She squeezes the snake, bonks the tiger on the head and she stomps on the bear's foot. When she finally finds her brontosaurus she claims him as her pet, but wires get crossed and somehow the brontosaurus believes that Lulu is his pet rather than the other way round. He refuses to give in to Lulu's wails and screams and she, stuck on his back, begins to realise that she is trapped and must stay with him, that her home and her parents are very far away, and that perhaps she shouldn't have been so rude to her mum and dad, or to the brontosaurus. So Lulu does (you'll be relieved to hear) learn her lesson and by the end she's managing to do without the screaming tantrums and can even squeeze out a 'please' or two!

There's a lot of authorial interruption in this story, which you'll probably find will either make you laugh or drive you crazy! I quite liked the style, with the author starting out by telling us at the beginning that she knows that humans and dinosaurs never lived on the earth at the same time, and that a brontosaurus is now known as an apatosaurus, pre-empting any knowledgeable parental grumbles. She also comments on Lulu's bad behaviour, and sneaks in notes about her plot for example when the snake tells Lulu he's going to squeeze her dead she writes Okay, so snakes don't talk. But in my story they do. It occasionally grated for me, but mostly I found the asides quite funny. She also does something a little bit different at the end of the book, writing out three different endings. It's all very, for want of a better word, quirky.

There are lots of short chapters in the book, so it would work well for a reader who is progressing onto chapter books as it's a fun read and not too difficult. I ended up reading it aloud to my four year old daughter who was captivated for the whole story! It's longer than our usual read-aloud stories, but it worked well because it's a fun story, very easy to follow, and there are plenty of pictures scattered throughout the story too. I particularly enjoyed reading it aloud because it offers some wonderful opportunities to be very shouty and obnoxious, as well as the chance to attempt various funny animal voices. I should warn you it has a catchy little rhyme too that Lulu sings whilst walking through the forest that goes:

I'm gonna, I'm gonna,
I'm gonna, gonna, get,
a bronto-bronto-bronto
Brontosaurus for a pet!

My little girl has since been heard singing this (or her own variation of this) around the house!

The illustrations are great - black and white sketches with some lovely stylised images and interesting perspectives. It's a shame they're not in colour as I think that would add something even more to the book, but they're good enough as they are. There's an early use of the word 'butt' which had me worried that the language would be very American throughout, but really that was the only bit. There is another part where Lulu says to her parents Foo on you which made my husband raise his eyebrows at me as I read, but otherwise this is a good, fun story which helpfully provides the rarity of a little girl character along with a dinosaur yet would work equally for boys and girls!

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Further reading suggestion: More dinosaur action for little ones: Tyrannosaurus Drip by Julia Donaldson and for more confident readers: Dino Egg by Charlie James

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