HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: In the Dinosaur’s Paw: The Kids of the Polk Street School #5
Author: Patricia Reilly Giff
Illustrator: Blanche Sims
Publisher: Yearling, republished in 1987
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Rating: 3 stars (FAIR)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Giff, Patricia Reilly. In the Dinosaur’s Paw: The Kids of the Polk Street School #5 (published in 1985 by Delacorte Press, 1 Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, New York City, NY 10017). Richard Best is a student at Polk Street School. When Christmas vacation ends, he is supposed to bring a ruler to school to help in studying dinosaurs. He forgets, but when rummaging around his desk, he finds a strange ruler which he imagines was once used by a dinosaur to grant wishes. And it seems as if all his wishes begin coming true. But then he wishes the mean old bully Drake Evans to become sick—and Drake does. Will Drake recover? How will Richard feel if he doesn’t? And is the ruler really magic?
This is book 5 in “The Kids of the Polk Street School” series. I had never seen these before but was recently visiting in another city, had some time to kill, went to the local library, noticed this book in the children’s section, and read through it. To be honest, I wasn’t all that impressed with it. I’ve read a lot of books written for early readers, and this one seemed a bit dull to me. Also, there were some aspects for which I did not care. Kids tease Richard because he had been held back in school, but he in turn teases Drake Evans to the point of making him angry. Richard and his sister Holly call each other “Dummy.” Richard’s friend Matthew comes to school with “the wet-the-bed-smell.” Ugh!
I suppose that these kinds of things are included by many modern authors in their children’s books to give a sense of “authenticity” to a story under the assumption that “all kids behave like that.” However, rather than having books that are “relevant” and “realistic” in this way, I would prefer children’s stories to model good behavior. On a positive note, Richard does learn better regarding his wish for Drake to get sick and comes to regret his mistake. However, I do have one other objection, and that is that there are a couple of references to dinosaurs having lived and died millions of years ago. You just can’t seem to get away from “evolution as a fact” even in children’s books!