CM . . .
. Volume XV Number 3. . . .September 26, 2008
Dinosaur Blackout. (Dinosaur Adventure Series #4).
Regina, SK: Coteau Books, 2008.
222 pp., pbk., $8.95.
Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.
Review by Jennifer Draper.
"Did you notice the sky in the past?" he asked. "Do you think it was a storm coming, or was there smoke from a fire in the area?"
"I think it was something much more than that, lad," said Pederson. He fell silent, stirring the spoon in his cup as if stalling for time.
"I almost don't want to say it."
Daniel felt the hairs on the nape of his neck rise as a sudden thought came to him.
"I think it might have been volcanic ash. I was nearby when Mount St. Helens erupted and the atmosphere was very similar."
"But I didn't think we had volcanoes in this area." Daniel racked his brain to remember what he'd read.
In the fourth book of the "Dinosaur Adventure series," Daniel finds himself back in the one place he vowed never to return to – the Cretaceous Period (146 – 65 million years ago). At the start of the book, the Paleontological tourism camp that his family co-owns has a rare fossil stolen, ripped carelessly from the ground. The local RCMP is stumped, and what further complicates matters is that a local man is missing. Did he steal the fossil?
The person most affected by this theft is Daniel's friend, Ole Pederson, a local paleontologist. The find of the rare stygimoloch dinosaur fossil has energized the man who is in failing health. Its disappearance sends him into a depression. Daniel decides to take action. Using his secret key to the past, he takes his Ole and friend Dr. Roost back to cheer Ole up. There they can study the dinosaur in situ while the police find the fossil. The past is even more dangerous than before, and, moments before they are eaten, they manage to return to the present. Roost and Ole secretly plan to return again despite their last terrifying visit without Daniel. He's on to them, knowing full well that they will need his assistance.
Throughout the rest of the book, Ole attempts to travel back to the past, and Daniel keeps watch. When near the end of the story the fossil is found, Daniel realizes that Ole has disappeared. Daniel manages to leap back in time just after his friend to see a land that is being destroyed. Finding Ole and convincing him to return to their own time only happens when a twister appears. This last visit to the past was too much for the old man, and he dies a happy man who got to see what he had dreamed of his entire life – real dinosaurs.
The Cretaceous Period was when great dinosaurs roamed the land, huge flying reptiles flew in the sky, and three metre long alligator-like creatures swam in the water. It had tropical temperatures year round with bright flowers and plants. One can see why so many are obsessed with this particular period in history. The story is told from Daniel's perspective, and he is not too happy about going back to the past. He takes the rather reasonable view that his friends are more likely to get eaten than learn anything!
The story drags with the inclusion of background information at some points, although dinosaur buffs may like that aspect. They will also like the glossary of terms at the end, as well as the list of web sites used in the research of this book. Readers who are not such dino fans will find this book less appealing. The characters are not as fully fleshed out as they could be, and the intertwining plots are repetitive. Like a hamster on a wheel, the action returns cyclically to each thread of action – who stole the fossil, do the Nelwin boys know the culprit, when will Ole escape back to the past, and how does that darn newspaper reporter know what is going on all the time? This distracts from a great concept.
Having the ability to time travel and see such great beasts would fill anyone with wonderment, and Silverthorne manages to capture Ole's obsession with this period in time. She also presents a good portrayal of farm life and shows that adventurers still have to do chores and look after baby sisters just like everyone else. Daniel does the tasks assigned to him, asks permission when necessary, and is an unbelievably mature and well-behaved child. He also does things like cross his fingers behind his back when lying and hanging his head when apologizing. These last actions seem juvenile for a 12-13 year old (he was 12 at the start of the series – this book does not specify his age). If you currently own the first three in this series, then you might as well buy this one as well.
Recommended with reservations.
Jennifer Draper is a librarian/children's literature aficionado living in Oshawa, ON.
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