by Mike Esola
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 I 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.
by Mike Esola website blog facebook twitter
Ages: 8 o 12
(C) 2013 by Mike Esola
Text: Copyright (C) 2013 by Mike Esola
Cover Illustration: Copyright (C) 2013 by Tom Kurzanski