• Picture Book Snob

A secret world of wishes and dreams

The Girl and the Dinosaur by Hollie Hughes and Sarah Massini, Bloomsbury

The Girl and the Dinosaur by Hollie Hughes and Sarah Massini, Bloomsbury

"And, as the clouds all part,

they spy a land up in the sky,

a magical moonlit island,

where night and daydreams fly."


What's it about?

In "a town beside the sea, not so very far from here," a little girl called Marianne digs for bones in the sand. She eventually finds enough to build a dinosaur, and, before she goes to sleep, wishes her "beastie" would come to life. This is a place where "the wishing stars burn bright" and "the air is thick with dreams." Suddenly, Marianne hears tapping at her window. It's her dinosaur! Marianne climbs out her window, on to the dinosaur's back, and they embark on a moonlit adventure featuring a host of mythical creatures. They eventually reach an island in the sky, where even more children and dinosaurs play. This is a secret location that connects young people, but adults are oblivious to its existence.

The Girl and the Dinosaur by Hollie Hughes and Sarah Massini, Bloomsbury

What can we learn?

Children are united by the world of make-believe, a place where anything is possible, and where grown-ups can no longer reach.

What makes this stand out? This is one of those rare contemporary books that already feels like a classic. It's not possible to adequately describe how beautiful and enchanting it is - you need to see it for yourself. The Girl and the Dinosaur will remind adults of the books they themselves loved when they were little. It's a gorgeous celebration of childhood, the power of the imagination, and how magical the world is when we're young. The rhyming text is beautiful and accompanied by stunning illustrations.

The Girl and the Dinosaur by Hollie Hughes and Sarah Massini, Bloomsbury

About those illustrations...

They are AMAZING and, just like the text, have a classic, timeless quality. We love Sarah Massini's gentle, dreamlike artwork - every scene is breathtaking. The limited palette is striking, with a clever use of colour, especially red. There are lots of interesting details which make the spell cast by the story even stronger. We adore the little cat who can be found on several pages, and enjoy peeping through windows at the sleeping people and animals. The fairy tale forest is another favourite, with its wonderful creatures and glowing tree trunk windows. We're also mad about the fairground in the sky and all its attractions, which include dino-hacked waterslides, swings, boats and ice-cream and candyfloss trees! I love the below spread with the dinosaur wading through the water, the starry sky above, and all the fish below. I love Marianne's hair too, and how it flows in the breeze.

The Girl and the Dinosaur by Hollie Hughes and Sarah Massini, Bloomsbury

Why we love it...

I've already mentioned how much we love the story and the illustrations. The Girl and the Dinosaur actually makes me quite emotional. There's something about it that's similar to Pixar films and the lyrics of "Puff the Magic Dragon," which always make me cry! Just like Pixar films and that song, this story emphasises how temporary childhood and its sense of wonder are, and how once they're lost, they're gone forever. We're told the children have, "secret memories to keep from grown-up heads." This suggests that the children will be unable to access these recollections, as well as the magic behind them, once they are older.


Why you need it...

In addition to all of the above, The Girl and the Dinosaur is the perfect story for lulling children to sleep at bedtime.

The Girl and the Dinosaur by Hollie Hughes and Sarah Massini, Bloomsbury

About the author:

Hollie Hughes writes short stories and plays for grown-up readers as well as picture books for children. The Girl and the Dinosaur won the the Wordery's Picture Book of the Year Award in 2020. We're also huge fans of Hollie's marvellous Princess Swashbuckle, illustrated by Deborah Allwright - read our review. We're dying to read The Famishing Vanishing Mahoosive Mammoth, illustrated by Leigh Hodgkinson and Ninja Nan, illustrated by Natalie Smillie.


About the illustrator:

Sarah Massini has been passionate about art and drawing her whole life. Sarah has illustrated several children's books which have been translated into more than 30 languages. We love Mouse's Night Before Christmas by Tracey Corderoy and The Star in the Jar with Sam Hay. We can't wait for The Witchling's Wish by Lou Fraser, which is due in September.

The Girl and the Dinosaur by Hollie Hughes and Sarah Massini, Bloomsbury

The Girl and the Dinosaur was published in September 2020 - see this book on the publisher's website