You know a book is an ideal read aloud when the reactions to it are as amusing as the story itself. Last night I read my children (8 years old x 2) Lulu and the Brontosaurus written by Judith Viorst and illustrated by Lane Smith. They easily could have read this book themselves but this book shines as a shared read aloud experience.
Judith Viorst writes books where characters have a very appealing voice – connectable, frank, amusing. In this book, it is not the main character Lulu that has the powerful voice (although her screeches are pretty loud) but rather the narrator, Viorst herself. As author of the book, she has taken certain liberties – yes, she knows that Lulu, a human girl couldn’t possibly go out into the forest to find a dinosaur (especially a brontosaurus that technically didn’t even ever exist as it has been renamed the apatosarus) but this is her story, so that’s just how it is going to be. Lulu decides that she wants a brontosaurus and when her parents refuse to give in (a rarity in and of itself) to her tantrums and pleas, she marches into the forest, with her small suitcase to find one herself.
Accompanying her are her Don’t mess with me attitude and her theme song:
I’m gonna, I’m gonna, I’m gonna, gonna get A bronto-bronto-bronto Brontosaurua for a pet. I’m gonna, I’m gonna, I’m gonna, gonna get A bronto-bronto-bronto Brontosaurua for a pet.
Lulu faces down huge snakes, ferocious tigers and grumpy bears. She is a girl on a mission. She is going to find a brontosaurus. She trudges on, frequently singing her song until sleep overtakes her. After hearing this song about three times, my children leaped out of bed, grabbed board games off the shelf as make shift suitcases and marched around the room chanting “I’m gonna, I’m gonna, I’m gonna, gonna get A bronto-bronto-bronto Brontosaurua for a pet. . . ” Maybe not the best book to be reading before bed? More inspiring than calming!
When Lulu awakes, it is to a tree trunk with toes. A brontosaurus! The answer to her dreams. But it turns out, actually not! This brontosaurus is not going to take no for an answer to his dream – He wants Lulu for his pet! Pages and pages pass. He is not changing his mind. Lulu has no choice – she runs away! She makes her way back through the forest, encountering those very same creatures she challenged along the way. Something in Lulu seems to have changed. She has new strategies. Gift giving. Complimenting. Saying please! Lulu?! I won’t give any more of the story away. It’s hard to tell it to its end anyway because there are actually three endings to choose from. Depending on your style and your story ending needs. (We were unanimous – ending three got our vote) Very considerate of Ms. Viorst!
Lane Smith, is the author/illustrator or illustrator of many books. His art is unique. Quirky. Odd. Eerie. Hilarious. In this book, the drawings are done in pencil on pastel paper. Amazing shading. So much mood conveyed without a hint of colour. We loved Lulu in her stripy dress, her persnickety pout, her sleek little bob. . . This book is a visual treat, strangely shaped – long and narrow and polka dotted new chapter pages. Never too much text on a page. A book you want to own. And treasure.
When the book ended (at 113 pages, we were able to finish it in one sitting) My children were completely energized! “Awesome,” cried my daughter. “That book was all about friendship, good manners and how you don’t always get what you want.” “And Foo on you! ” squealed my son. (You will have to read the book to find out why this is absolutely hilarious to an eight year old!)
Love this book! Reading books by Judith Viorst is always a delightful experience.