Toronto: Napoleon Publishing, 1995. 152pp, paper, $8.95.
Grades 5 - 9 / Ages 10 - 14.
Review by Caroline Thomson.
Weet turned again and slowly led them into trees.
As they walked, Eric found comfort in talking. "You know, l think I've seen Weet before."
"How could you?" Rose was doubtful. "We've never been here before. Was he in one of your dreams?"
"No, but there's a picture in one of my books. Someone made a model of what he thought dinosaurs might have evolved into if they hadn't died out. It looked a lot like Weet, but it was just guesswork. No one realized that they could have evolved into this before they died out."
"Hasn't anyone found his bones?" Rose seemed unconcerned that the green figure in front of them should have turned to stone long ago.
"No" Eric replied thoughtfully. "Maybe his bones are too fragile to be
preserved, or maybe there aren't very many of them."
"How old do you think he is?" Rose's question surprised Eric.
"Sixty-five million and something," he replied, with more flippancy than he felt.
Dinosaurs have always been a popular subject for youth fiction and non-fiction. Adults, too, are fascinated with the subject. Some researchers have speculated on how the dinosaurs might have evolved had they not died out. That brings us to Weet. John Wilson explores the idea that some dinosaurs evolved into intelligent, social humanoids before they went extinct.
Despite the title, the main character of this story is twelve-year-old Eric Richardson. Eric seems to spend most of his time learning and dreaming about dinosaurs. On a family outing to the Badlands of Alberta, Eric, his sister Rose, and their dog Sally are mysteriously transported sixty-five million years into the past, to the late Cretaceous. There they meet up with Weet, a member of a fictitious species of highly evolved dinosaur. They share Weet's adventures, and some of their own, all the while wondering if they will ever get back to their own time.
Being transported back in time is a theme that has often been used before. But Wilson has done his homework, and while telling an entertaining story, he also includes a great deal of information on dinosaurs and the late Cretaceous period. He uses parallels with our own time to explain certain concepts, such as environmental changes. Wilson uses speculation about dinosaurs as well as facts. Weet and his kind are obviously the biggest speculation, but he also uses other notions about dinosaurs' intelligence and physical characteristics that are still are matter of debate among paleantoIogists (for example, he depicts velociraptors with feathers).
At the end of the book, Wilson has included a few notes on the different kinds of dinosaurs the children encounter.
The ideas and issues of the story are strong, as is the writing. The adventures of Weet and his companions hold the reader's attention, and Wilson effectively recreates the late Cretaceous with vivid descriptions.
There are a few weak points however. The greatest weakness is that the entire adventure turns out to be just a dream. Granted, it is difficult to come up with a plausible reason for two children and a dog to be transported back in time; but "it was all a dream" is a particularly weak plot device. It is also remarkable how quickly Weet picks up English, and that his names for certain dinosaurs (shoveltill, roarer, sickleclaw, and so on) are English-language descriptions for the creatures. Similarly, Rose understands and adapts rather too well to the world of the late Cretaceous for a seven year old.
These points aside, John Wilson has written an informative and exciting story for children nine and up. This story will appeal particularly to boys, but also to anyone interested in dinosaurs. The black-and-white sketches scattered throughout the book are well done and add to the story.
Caroline Thomson is a librarian in North York, Ontario. She holds an M.A. in history.
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