________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 15 . . . . March 29, 2002

cover An Incredible Case of Dinosaurs. (Barnes and the Brains).

Kenneth Oppel. Illustrated by Sam Sisco.
Markham, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2001.
58 pp., pbk., $4.99.
ISBN 0-439-98792-X.

Subject Headings:
Dinosaurs-Juvenile fiction.
Friendship-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.

Review By Deborah Mervold.

*** /4


Giles slid down lower in the tub, the water lapping against his chin. Life had seemed so simple before he had met Tina and Kevin. Now that he'd been made a full partner in their genius business, it seemed he never had a moment's peace. Just last week, they'd been hired to deal with the Walshes' missing garden gnomes, and the Angelinis' creaking hinges. Then there had been a particularly nasty case involving a radio that only picked up country and western music. It didn't matter where the tuning needle was, or whether the radio was on or off - the mournful singing and guitar strumming blared from the speakers.

Giles supposed he should feel grateful that business was going full blast. After all, he'd almost saved up enough for the remote-controlled airplane he'd had his eye on for months. But he couldn't help wishing things would slow down just a little.

Kenneth Oppel has written the fourth book in the "Barnes and the Brains" series. An Incredible Case of Dinosaurs is told in third person by Giles Barnes who helps the brother and sister team, Kevin and Tina Quark, solve mysteries. In this case, Miss Frost, the wealthy businesswoman who has seen a strange creature in her swimming pool, calls in the three investigators. She hires the firm because they are well known for solving difficult crimes. Tina is the brains behind the group and also the driving force.

     The three look into the pool which is large and overgrown. Tina has designed a "bathysphere" which looks like a modified washing machine. Under the water, they discover a crack in the foundation and several strange looking dinosaur-like creatures. The three children block the crack, thereby keeping the hydrosaurs inside the pool.

     They manage to purchase fish to feed the hydrosaurs, and they also keep the hydrosaurs a secret. Tina dreams of greatness and of receiving an award for finding the dinosaurs. They two boys feel sorry for the creatures and go to Miss Frost with all their money in the hope of buying the dinosaurs and setting them free. Miss Frost comes with them to see the hydrosaurs at the time when they realize that there is an egg which hatches. The dinosaurs escape through the crack. Tina is disappointed that her chance at fame is eliminated.

     The vocabulary and plot are suitable for the intended age group. The children have more authority and power than what is realistic; however, the intended age group would identify with the characters. The illustrations by Sam Sisco add to the humour of the text. The interest of this case would promote reading of the other books as reference is made to past cases. Subplots are limited, a stylistic approach which would also be suitable for the intended reading level. The children have the characteristics of children in the early middle years, including the sibling problems between Tina and Kevin. The boys don't take Tina too seriously even though she is the brains behind the group. They also are independent and make their own decisions.

     The fifth book, A Weird Case of Super-Goo, is soon forthcoming. Kenneth Oppel has written sixteen books including Silverwing and Sunwing, both of which have won the Mr. Christie's Book Award and the Canadian Library Association's Book of the Year for Children Award. Visit his website at: www.kennethoppel.ca.

     An Incredible Case of Dinosaurs is an interesting mystery for children beginning to read chapter books. The simple story line and limited number of characters would be suitable for these readers. The dialogue is realistic. "Barnes and the Brains" would be a good series for school and public libraries.


Deborah Mervold is a teacher librarian in a grade 5 to 12 school and a Resource Based Learning Consultant for Parkland School Division in SK.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364