________________ CM . . . . Volume IX Number 9 . . . . January 3, 2003


A Penny for Albert. (Dinosaur Soup: Book One).

Gerri Cook. Illustrated by Chao Yu & Jue Wang.
Edmonton, AB: Dinosaur Soup Books/The Books Collective, 2002.
115 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 1-895836-93-X.

Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11.

Review by Ruth McMahon.

* /4


The Royal Tyrell Museum is really impressive. It's in the middle of the Red Deer River Badlands and you can see it from quite a distance away. It's one of the world's most famous places for collections, research and displays of dinosaurs and other fossils. Visitors come here from all over the world.

It is late afternoon. Dad wants to reconnect Albert with his tour group then take us for a quick look through the museum.

"Penny, Perry, keep your eyes open. Do you see anyone resembling Albert?" Dad asks as we walk from the parking lot toward the front entrance. There are busloads of students and tourists arriving and leaving.

As we approach, with Albert eagerly bouncing along behind us, I do see something that resembles Albert. Or what Albert really is. In front of museum is a life-sized statue of an adult Albertosaurus chasing something. I turn to tell Albert that it isn't real, but it's too late.

"MOTHER!" Albert charges towards the statue which is surrounded by people taking pictures. He runs right up to it and stops, confused. Then he pokes at it with one talon. "Mother?"

Penny "For Your Thoughts" Moonstar hosts a segment, 'Weird Science,' on the television program, 'CoolSchool,' a collaborative project between Badlands Middle School and the local cable station. She is determined to broadcast a segment from the Badlands. Penny, short for Pentacrinis (a sea lily fossil) and her brother, Perry, short for Perigrine, are to tag along with their father Ben, short for Bentonite (a rock) on one of his geological excursions to the Badlands. Mother Meadowlark (an environmental designer) stays at home.

     While in the Badlands, Penny meets up with Albert O. Saurus, an Albertasaurus. Penny thinks Albert would be safer incognito. Albert, "who stands 3 meters - or ten feet - tall at the hip" (p. 43), disguises himself as a Russian rock star on tour. No one in the story recognizes Albert as a dinosaur, not even when he pokes the display Albertasaurus with his talon.

     There are some bikers who are interested in Albert for all the wrong reasons, and they finally catch up with Penny, Perry and Albert on the trails at the Tyrell Museum. The Moonstar family are victorious. Albert ends up staying hidden in the Badlands, but he is able to communicate with the outside world through a computer that his friend Joseph Wolf Tail leaves for him. Joseph Wolf Tail is an aboriginal on a vision quest introduced to readers in the Prologue. He is inserted into the story a couple of times to keep the plot going.

     Gerri Cook writes for television, and this book reads like a television program. There is more tell than show which is a pity given the hauntingly breathtaking, unearthly beauty of this story's setting. More attention to detail pertaining to the museum and other surrounding sites could only enhance the drama. For example, more could be said about the Bleriot Ferry, a unique flat-topped barge that is operated by a system of pulleys across the Red Deer River. A Penny for Albert has all the right ingredients for a grade 4 to 6 chapter book (dinosaurs, a mystery, a happy family, biker bad-guys, and a romantic setting), but unfortunately they just don't come together. The illustrations do nothing to help readers with the illusion that Albert is a touring Russian rock star.

Not Recommended

Lethbridge, AB’s Ruth Scales McMahon is the co-chair of the Rocky Mountain Book Award and an Alberta immigrant mesmerized by the Badlands and their prehistoric stories.

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

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ISSN 1201-9364
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