Lulu and the Brontosaurus

By Judith Viorst, Illustrated by Lane Smith

 lulu cover

Published by: Atheneum Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (September 14, 2010)

Available in: hardcover, paperback, Kindle, NOOK, audible unabridged, audio CD

At the time of this review there were three books in the Lulu series.


Bold and smart.

Lulu and the Brontosaurus is a fresh, quirky, lively take on classic children’s story standards, done with unerring wit and skill by the great Judith Viorst.

Author of the iconic picture book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Viorst turns here to the chapter book format with a unique perspective. Told in third person, the unnamed narrator is quite visible in comic asides, quick descriptions and notable opinions (“…nobody knows how dinosaurs sound, but in my story they rumble….). This unusual approach is so different from most chapter books, which tend to be first person or straight third person, that this alone is an amusing twist.

But that’s only the start. The book stars, yes stars is definitely Lulu’s style, a bratty girl who has attitude and force. In other series, this can be annoying. But Viorst’s writing is so adept and comic, Lulu is nothing if not charming and entertaining. Her outbursts are so outlandish, so out of whack, there is no doubt this is fiction. The drama ante is upped, and upped again, with clever flair. The sheer boldness and precision of Viorst’s writing is truly inspriational. And parents have no fear: Lulu’s character arc ends in redemption and self-awareness.

From story plot and execution to exquisite illustrations by the talented Lane Smith, Lulu is reminiscent of other great titles in kids lit: Where the Wild Things Are, My Father’s Dragon, Grimm’s Fairy Tales and even the movie “Beetlejuice.” It’s quite a delight, wrapped in a fun size package of long, thin dimensions. Much like a brontosaurus’s neck, you see.

What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….


Massive Magic Tree House

dino before dark cover


By Mary Pope Osborne, Illustrations by Sal Murdocca


Published by: Random House Books for Young Readers (July 28, 1992)

Available in: paperback, library binding, audiobook CD, audible, Kindle, NOOK

At the time of this review, there were 51 books in the Magic Tree House series, as well as a line of research books for kids.


This tree house is a mansion.

The Magic Tree House series is like Goliath to all the David chapter books now available: there are so many in this series, and it is so popular with the younger chapter book set, I imagine it’d be hard to find people not aware of Magic Tree House.

So what made this one take off? Most chapter books tend to be the stepchild of the publishing industry: off to the side and forgotten save by teachers and some parents and kids. So what enchanted dust is swirling here?

Here’s what I see as the magic in this series:

  • Short, snappy sentences
  • Appeals to both boys and girls
  • Offers adventure. And delivers in every story
  • Fully fleshed-out illustrations that occupy lots of space

A kid who thumbs through his first Magic Tree House is not going to be intimidated or overwhelmed. And once in the book, the action will carry him through to the end in fast-paced clip. What more does a newly independent or reluctant reader need?

Teachers and parents also love that there’s a lot of educational facts covered on each subject.

That said, don’t fret if your child or student doesn’t get drawn in—this tree isn’t for everyone. I know a number of kids, including my own, who never saw the magic. And yet one can’t help but be impressed with the sheer success of this series, and wonder how many children Jack and Annie ushered into the world of literacy. Now that’s magic.

What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….