Opposites attract in TRYGG, THE DINOSAUR, a bittersweet middle grades novel about orphaned dinosaurs — one a tiny carnivore, the other a huge herbivore — who become secret friends. Author Paula Louise Salvador takes readers to the late Cretaceous Period tens of millions of years ago for this tale about overcoming differences and recognizing commonalities.
Trygg is a boy Troödon and Alta is a girl Hypacrasaurus. She’s a duckbill who could smash Trygg with one of her four feet. He’s a two-footed, birdlike dinosaur who looks harmless but is part of a viciously predatory species.
Salvador creates a realistic setting in which Trygg and Alta face dangers, including drought and volcanic eruptions. But she gives her characters human conversation, emotions, and personalities (Alta is a class clown, and one of her practical jokes takes toilet humor too far), which may frustrate readers who prefer realism. John Bindon’s detailed, black-and-white illustrations capture these personality traits as well as realistic dinosaur anatomy. Portraits of Trygg show a big head versus a tiny body, a trait that may have made Troödons brainier than big dinosaurs. His drawings support Salvador’s storytelling, such as one in which Trygg looks curious while grasping a marsupial rodent with a baby peeking out of its pouch. Between Salvador’s text and Bindon’s illustration, it isn’t difficult to feel the mother’s “frantic heartbeat” or Trygg’s struggle against his carnivorous nature.
Changing climate and a crippled foot make it difficult for Alta to find waterholes and tasty greens. In contrast, Trygg has no one to teach him how to hunt or expand his tastes beyond snails and frogs. He wants a herd but fears bigger, faster Troödons who “could swallow him whole with one good chomp.” Salvador deftly alternates Trygg’s and Alta’s early childhood tales of loss. This rhythm changes and the heavy emotions lighten when the two meet and become loyal, got-your-back swamp playmates. To emphasize the importance of community, Salvador gives Alta an adoptive family whose nestlings she babysits and Trygg envies. The author uses humor to soften sadness as well as dangers. When Alta becomes outraged that Trygg taste tested a dead Hypacrasaurus, he defends himself by saying, “I don’t think it was anybody you knew!”
Salvador directed the video Dinosaur Babies: The North American Story. Bindon is well known for illustrating many books about dinosaurs. Together, they’ve created a lovable story available both as an ebook and in print.
Author Paula Louise Salvador and illustrator John Bindon earn top marks for creating an imaginative dinosaur story that will tug the hearts of children, parents, and teachers.
~Alicia Rudnicki for IndieReader