#383 – Diary of a Dinosaur #1: The Attack of Ben ny by Mike Esola

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Diary of a Dinosaur: The Attack of Benny

by Mike Esola

No Stars

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Back Cover:  Stan is your everyday sixth grader.  He goes to school, plays sports, dislikes math, is terrified of girls, and has one pretty cool iPhone.  However, there are two challenges he faces that make his life difficult, to say the least.  First, he’s a little Tyrannosaurus Rex trying to make a name for himself in a world populated by humans.  Second, his life is being ruined by a fellow sixth grader named Benny who seems to have it out for him.  Will Stan make it through sixth grade or will Benny continue to ruin his life?

Opening:  I am just your average sixth grader.  I go to school, play sports, hate homework, love summer, and am terrified of girls.  The only difference is that I am a dinosaur, a t-rex to be exact.  But don’t be frightened.  I am extremely small for my age.

What the Story is About:  Stan’s mother walks him to school for the beginning of the new school year.  He arrives an hour early, by mistake, and spends the time cleaning up pigeon excrement off the playground with the janitor for the first three chapters.  Stan has a score to settle with another sixth grader who had robbed him of one of the greatest kicks in kickball history.  Benny, a bully who picks on Stan, tripped Stan as he tried to round third base for home.  In response, Stan hit Benny and a fight began, until the principal hauled Stan into his office.  Now Stan wants revenge.  He wants to humiliate Benny by beating him at a sport in front of the other students.  Can he beat Benny at his own game?

What I Thought*A while back, I read a book called The First Five Pages:  A Writer’s Guide To Staying Out of the Rejection Pile (Noah Lukeman).  He said most readers will make up their mind about a book after the first five pages and 99.9% will not change their mind. This makes the first five pages rather important.  For a reviewer this could not be more true.  Within the first five pages, I like to have met the protagonist, his antagonist, and learn the plot of the story.  Waiting until the fourteenth chapter is much too long a wait.  Not reading about the protagonist again until nine chapters later is confounding. This is exactly what happens in Diary of a Dinosaur. 

Wanting to be fair, I read all 50 chapters in this 142-page book.  A couple of quick irritants: most chapters begin approximately two pages after the last, regardless of where the story is at the end of those two pages; the use of texting terms outside of a text message, biggest offenders being “LOL” and the smiley face.  I am not sure why the author chose to start new chapters in the middle of a scene.  It defies logic.  Maybe it is okay as long as the last sentence in the chapter is Keep on reading; The answer is in the next chapter; or You know the deal by now, keep on reading. Or, after doing this most of the book, in chapter 45 you write

I cut that last chapter short again.  So you’re probably saying that I also cut the chapter before that one short as well.  Remember one important thing, that it is my book and I can write short chapters if I want to. Haha. (pg. 115/chp. 45)

The attitude expressed in those four sentences might well sum up the attitude of, well, many people writing and publishing on Amazon today. Let’s just throw out the The Chicago Manual of Style, The Elements of Style, all dictionaries, and every other book that teaches writing, grammar, punctuation, English or any language.  Who needs them, it’s my book and I can do whatever I want.

Stan resorts to cheating to beat Benny, but Benny also cheats, outsmarting Stan’s cheating.  An angry Stan says, many chapters later, that he would never resort to cheating because don’t believe in cheating.  When the writing is bad, these indiscretions become bothersome.  The editorializing was strong and occurred often.

I read  THE HUNGER GAMES series.  I know you’re probably as surprised as I am.  I had to find out what all the fuss what about regarding the books. I mean any book that has sold millions of copies must be good, right? (pg. 23/chp. 8)

He was a boy I absolutely despise.  Let me take that back for a second.  I don’t despise anyone in life, and neither should you, but I don’t like him based on what he did to me last year.  Let me backtrack again for a second. Perhaps you might be wondering what the word despite means?  It means to not like someone or something, so it would be okay for me to say I despise math, because I don’t enjoy doing it or watching it.  (pg. 37, 38/chp. 14)

Stan walking home with a friend took up six complete “chapters” without anything significant towards the plot occurring.  Just one example of many scenes that do not forward the plot, which was left hanging like a large bare thread.  The plot was not close to being solved, but you can read book two to see if it happens.  That is what is basically said on the last page of the book.  I kept on reading and was never so thankful to see a back cover.  There is no dialogue in this book.  None, Zip, nada, nothing.  No one utters a word to another.  This is a huge example of telling rather than showing.  Everything is tell.  Please people, take a course, read a book, learn the basics of writing for children.

Will kids like this book?  I would hope not, but with all the low level work passing itself as good literature and adults justifying its existence by buying the ninety-nine cent schlock, it would not be surprising to see kids reading the same terribly written, unedited, and unrevised mess.  For many picture books, illustrations save the story.  Other books must stand on the text alone, as a story should be able to do, with or without illustrations.

I do not know what Diary of a Dinosaur is supposed to be.  It reads as if it is an April fool’s joke played on the literary community.  To be fair, I think you should decide for yourself.  Here is the link to the first book of Diary of a Dinosaur, where you can read the first five chapters: HERE. It is a very fast read.  Then please return and let me know what you think.

I have never felt this strongly about a book and do want to be fair.  A review is simply an opinion of the reviewer, so I’d love to get more opinions, whatever they may be.  So please, take a quick read of the first five chapters and then comment below.  I’ll even throw in my copy of Diary of a Dinosaur to whoever has the best comment (and you do not need to agree with me to win).  To read, click HERE.

*Not all self-published or 99¢books are terribly written, unedited, and unrevised messes or schlock. You can find many examples of excellent self-published books reviewed here at Kid Lit Reviews.  Plus many more are waiting to be discovered.  But, these are the exceptions, written with respect to craft, to the literary community, and most importantly, to readers.
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Diary of a Dinosaur: The Attack of Benny

by Mike Esola    website    blog    facebook     twitter

Released  2013

ISBN:  978-1-47871363-0

152 pages

Ages:   8 o 12

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(C) 2013 by Mike Esola

Text:  Copyright (C) 2013 by Mike Esola

Cover Illustration:  Copyright (C) 2013 by Tom Kurzanski

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23 thoughts on “#383 – Diary of a Dinosaur #1: The Attack of Ben ny by Mike Esola

  1. I read the first two chapters, and thought I left a comment here, to the general effect that the review was spot-on. Dreadful writing in desperate need of an editor. Not sure what became of my comment, but this pretty well sums it up.

    Like

    • I can’t find another comment, but I am thankful you commented again. I thank you for stopping by, reading the review, and even those two chapters. I should have read them before accepting the book, but I didn’t even look. I went by the email. That is my fault. I just wish there was a solution to the overpopulation of books.

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  2. I did not read the preview, because I have always respected your opinion. Ouch, though! This review hurts to read! Unfortunately, controversy, both negative and positive can be good for a book. I’ve noticed that more and more legitimate reviewers are not accepting self published books partly because of the potential fall out from an honest review. Sorry the author had to get so nasty. Not good. ~C.L. Murphy

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    • You respect me!? You really respect me?! Ah, I am so red faced right now. 😀 It was just as difficult to write as to read. Trying really hard to be fair, yet the frustration of it all. I hope that will never happen again.Hopefully more people will preview this book much more now, which is suppose to be a good thing. He should thank me for that!

      I won’t ignore self-published books, but I might start looking closely at what I can find on a book before accepting it. If I ignored self-published so as to not have this kind of review, there would be some fantastic books that would not get shared here. There are three self-pub in the Top 10 (have a pub. named but the pub. doesn’t really exist). I know there are many more. I would have missed your books. That would have been a shame! 🙂

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  3. Yup. I read the preview, and you are dead right. It’s like the flat “I got up this morning….” narratives my 3rd graders used to write, but even they knew enough to introduce the characters and problem ASAP. This one has set back the reputation of self published books a mile.

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  4. I did read the 5 chapters and my first thought was, these 5 chapter could have been written in 5 sentences., So, right off the bat, I knew this was an unedited, unprofessional book. I did, however, think that Benny could be a intriguing main character if this book were to be rewritten by: using a proper chapter book format, having a stronger plot, cutting out all the unnecessary babble, and including interaction through dialogue.

    One of the first things a writer learns in writing children’s books is to get to the point of the story and get there fast.

    People who give books like this 5 stars on Amazon are not doing the author or reader any favors. You can’t trick the reader, well, maybe only once, into buying your book. And the next book you have out, your author’s name will be mud because they did read your first book and it wasn’t a 5 star book.

    So, people, please stop giving false reviews on Amazon. You are discrediting the whole book industry. Think about it.

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    • I think you mean Stan (the dinosaur), but Benny could be much better, too. Benny is a name only.

      I don’t know how to stop the questionable 5 star reviews. It would help to make everyone who reviews something be verified by name and have a picture. Anyone can go on and make a new persona, not verified, no picture, and BAM! review. I am not saying I know anyone who has done this, but an author could make a fake persona with no information given and write a 5 star review on his/her own book — and do it more than once! So it is a problem.

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  5. You make a really good point – sometimes people like a book that another person really hates. I’ve come across some really bad self-published books (from now on (in this comment) called SPBs) which makes me sad because I’ve read some well written SPBs that I think ‘HEY! This could’ve been Traditionally published!’, but the author doesn’t do that. It makes me sad, because people will probably not hear of that book because the bad SPBs give the good SPBs a bad name. 😦

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    • You are very right, Erik. There has been a lot of talk about the growth of self-publishing without the growth of quality. It’s just because it is now possible for anyone to upload to Amazon–not to make Amazon the villain, but there needs to be some kind of watchguard.

      You are right about the taste in books. What I like you might think sucks (oops, am I allowed to say that to you? Your mom wont come hunt me down, will she?) “Sorry Mom!” 😳

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  6. Suzanne, as soon as I read your “Back Cover” and “Opening,” I skipped over “What the Story is About” to “What I Thought.” Why? Because the premise alone was cheesy and I just knew it had to be self-published by what you said. I’m sorry, my dear, but I’m not going to read any of the book; the excerpts you included were more than enough. This is terrible writing—period. It’s sad, but the majority of the 78% of books published (can you believe only 22% were traditionally published this year?!) are self-published and I suspect that the overwhelming majority of them are poorly written.

    Obviously, there are good writers choosing to self-publish now, especially with the ease of the e-book route, but most aren’t good. Plain and simple. I give you credit for pushing yourself through it though. I used to, but no longer do unless someone I know absolutely insists I have to in order to get to the “really good stuff.” When I read a book (especially one of length) I want to be sucked in right away, and held there to the last page, and I especially cherish the ones in which I really know the characters and care about them, and that keep me thinking about them while doing other things, longing to get back to reading it. That doesn’t happen too often 😦

    I have some really good books on writing (my favorite so far: STEPHEN KING ON WRITING), but THE FIRST FIVE PAGES isn’t one of them—yet. I saw it quite a few years ago, during one of my many browses through the Sales Annex at Barnes and was thinking to buy it then, but didn’t. I’ve heard it mentioned and recommended quite a few times, so I will probably add it to my library 🙂 I wonder if it’s still in the Annex…

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    • I had thought of getting Stephen King’s On Writing but never did. I have heard so much good about the book since I did not buy it. It is on my do get list.

      I really hate writing what I wrote. I sent it to a writing friend first, she said to publish it – after reading the first five chapters. I even got a very nasty email from the author telling me to F-off and where I could go. He also threatened to degrade any book I ever wrote. Nice guy. Why doesn’t that persona come through on the “please review my book” email.

      I am more than ready for the next review to post. It’s a great review-or rather, a great book. 🙂

      Thanks so much for commenting. I appreciate the support. If you win, where would you like the book sent?

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      • lol, Sue, this made me laugh! Uuumm…I’ll forego telling you where to send my possible “won” copy lol And I’m sorry to hear about the author’s response, but it seems to be a common occurrence with stuff like this. There was a whole thread on LinkedIn just recently, started by Veronica Knox, that addressed this subject and 5-star ratings.

        I don’t like rating things, period, and don’t trust them, honestly. Many are from family and friends for the “support” and “boosting” factors. It’s also too easy to click on any one of the five without weighing it heavily. I prefer reviews like yours, whether short of long—as long as they’re honest.

        Recently, I read a book by someone I know, and except for a few chapters that actually held more of my interest, I really couldn’t stand it. I had a VERY hard time finishing it, and honestly—I wouldn’t have if I didn’t know her. I’m avoiding posting a review on Goodreads or mentioning it at all because I really don’t know what to say that will be honest, yet not hurtful. There’s no way I will give it a star rating. In fact, I chose not to rate any books on there.

        Can you ask for a first chapter for any book people ask you to review? There’s got to be a way of somehow weeding out the ones you don’t want to address, just the way an agent does with queries. To me, reviewers should have similar policies. Your time is precious and valuable!

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        • that is a great idea! I think I am going to give that a whirl. I will start asking for the first chapter and see if this helps. I would think if I do not know about a book within the first chapter either I need to stop reviewing or the book need not be sent. This won’t stop anything lousy from a publisher, but I have yet to read anything horrible from them.

          I tried, or am trying, to request a $10 “reading fee” thinking then only serious authors will submit. So far, what it has done is stop the number of requests. That is not so bad, I just hope I have not missed a really good book because of a lousy ten bucks. I will say the few that have paid the fee have sent really good books. The one picture book looks fantastic.

          It is hard to know what to do. I don’t trust review sites that have nothing but positive reviews or only write the blurb and give a rating but never really review anything.

          Do you have the link to the Linkedin debate? I’d love to read what others think. Thanks for the great idea. I;ll let you know how it works out. 🙂

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          • Sue, I do hope that works out for you. I would think $10 is reasonable, especially if it’s a novel! I would think it’s a good deterent. Probably people will go the “free” route first, and depending on who they want to review their book and where they think the reviews will help them most, would largely dictate who they’ll ask to review and if they’re willing to pay. Their pocketbooks can be a big consideration, too—theirs could be empty, like mine, and that could be a deciding factor. I don’t know how things work with reviewers, requests, fees, etc. I’m not nearly ready to travel down that road, so haven’t really researched it. I just feel it’s a time-consuming undertaking for the reviewer, and there’s got to be a way to make your life easier, your time better spent and possibly, if it’s appropriate, also compensated in some way, including monetary.

            I had to go into my other email address to find the link to that LinkedIn debate. I think it finally petered out, but there are a LOT of comments—many of them useful, and I would think it would be helpful to you. Also, I was mistaken; the woman who started the thread was Rebecca Byfield in the “Books and Writers” group:

            http://www.linkedin.com/groupItem?view=&gid=1697027&type=member&item=261445033&qid=fbd22268-a7e5-4973-9b01-218b612f92fb&trk=group_search_item_list-0-b-ttl&goback=%2Eamf_1697027_6359448

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  7. But Sue – it has six 5-Star reviews!! I’m not sure I’ve ever seen you go off on a book like this. It’s quite interesting. So, I read the 5 chapters (and a bit) and my impression is “What is this book even about?” There is no feel at all in the first 5 chapters as to where the story is going. I find the many, many (like, too many) side-tracks very distracting; but, I don’t know – would kids like it? Oh, and one last thing … the book is $2.99 not 99 cents. My bottom line – didn’t hook me in five chapters.

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    • Check out who wrote those 5 star reviews. I did on a couple. One wrote two reviews, both for this author. Other reviewer I checked out, also with no verified name or picture, only reviewed this book. Third one was someone who also wrote one book back several years and upon reading part of the book, it falls into same category, explaining why he liked this one. Maybe it was a “You like mine . . . “.

      Come on! Sorry. I read this entire book. All 50 chapters. 50! You read all 50 and I bet I’ll read a raving review on your site, too. 🙂

      You bust my chops here and my chops on your site, too. What’s up with all of this? $2.99 or $.99 is there a real difference? Bad is bad at any price.

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