Review of the Day: Edwina, the Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct
It would take a human being with the sense of humor of a bowl of moldy tapioca not to find “Edwina, the Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was Extinct” one of the funniest picture books of the year. I mean, I resisted reviewing it. Mo Willems needs no introduction any longer. His misleadingly simple style is what it is, as it is, as it shall be evermore. Basically, he does not need my help promoting his books. That doesn’t mean, though, that it’s not fun to do. Now the man in question has tried his hand on the standard large-animal-who’s-friends-with-kids genre. You can keep you Cliffords and your Dannys with their dinosaurs, though. Color me an Edwina fan through and through (and that goes double for her chocolate chip cookies).
If you live in town then you know Edwina. She’s just your friendly neighborhood dinosaur. If she’s not changing the lightbulbs on the streetlights then she’s baking cookies for the populace at large. Edwina, let it be known, is a peach and everybody loves her. Well... almost everybody. There is a little fellow by the name of Reginald Von Hoobie-Doobie that is seriously upset by Edwina’s mere existence. Reginald is a smart fellow and if there’s one thing he knows in this world, it’s that dinosaurs are “totally extinct!” But no one listens to Reginald. In spite of his school reports, flyleaf explanations, protests, one-man-shows, etc. nobody is willing to listen to his dead dinosaur schtick. No one, that is, except Edwina herself. But when Reginald truly manages to convince Edwina of her extinct status, the results are not what he might have expected.
Let’s talk Reginald Von Hoobie-Doobie. As names go, this guy’s one hip cat. I recommend reading the book with an exaggerated hoity-toity voice when saying Reggie’s name more than once. Here’s the tricky thing, though. Edwina’s a peach without becoming... um... well, without becoming Barney (to be blunt). She’s sweet but she’s got her own personality as well. When Reginald convinces her beyond a shadow of a doubt that in spite of her pearls and sensible handbag she is, in fact, extinct, there’s a look in the dino's eyes usually reserved for dead men walking. I mean, you could knock her over with a feather in that pic. But does that bother our gal too too much? Nossir! Off she goes, bounding merrily through a brick wall with Reginald Von Hoobie-Doobie (gosh, that’s fun to write) bounding merrily behind her as well.
I liked Reginald’s objection to Edwina. He’s a logical fellow and while Edwina might be a very nice person she goes against the natural order of things. Reginald is basically the child-friendly version of that guy in the Monty Python skits who’d bring everything to a halt if he felt things were getting a tad too “silly”. The simple fact that nobody listens to him where Edwina is concerned drives young Mr. Von Hoobie-Doobie up a wall. So when Edwina herself proves to be the only person patient enough to put up with this kid with a chip on his shoulder, her basic act of kindness kind of turns the tables on things. Mo Willems can write a fun picture book with an odd but very present moral and not turn the whole enterprise into sticky knee-deep treacle. And that is a skill that doggone deserves its own award. Add in the little details that give the book its pizzazz (such as the child drawings of Edwina hanging outside Reginald’s classroom) and you’ve got yourself a keeper of a story.
Oh we know that a book is as clean cut as this is doomed to a lifetime of people scratching their heads over whether or not it deserves any awards because it seems “simple”. What we should all remember is that “simple” is not the same thing as “easy”. This is a complex little critter wrapped inside misleading straightforward packaging. Oh. And it’s fun. I should probably mention that, shouldn’t I? Yes, it’s kid-friendly, everyone who reads it will enjoy it, and it has a wacked out all-ages sensibility to it. And it’s fun. So go out and buy it, even if you promised yourself earlier in the year that you wouldn’t buy anymore Mo Willems books since you seem to own them ALL. Go on. It’ll do you some good. It’s fun, frolicsome, and it has a dinosaur in it. What more could any human being possibly want anyway?