Just before Christmas my marvellous M will turn 5. This year will be the first time we’ve held a party for her, and at her request, it is going to have a dinosaur theme. After all the running (stomping?) around at the party we’re going to have some dinosaur stories before all the kids go home and so we’re devouring all the dinosaur related books we can get our hands on from the library to choose our favourites. One that we’ve really enjoyed a great deal this last week is Dinosaurs and all that rubbish by Michael Foreman.
Although Dinosaurs and all that rubbish was originally written over 35 years ago, the story it tells could not be more timely given the United Nations Climate Change Conference next week in Copenhagen – about a man who’s ambitions to have and to tame at any cost what does not belong to him lead to the gradual destruction of the world around him. When he finally does get what he thinks he has been so desperate for, he is only disappointed. Possession does not lead to the joy he had imagined, and instead he is spurred on to try his luck elsewhere.
And the dinosaurs? Well, they make their appearance about half way through the book. When the earth has been exploited for all its wealth and long since abandoned
the piles of rubbish smouldered and burned, and the mountains rumbled.
Far below the surface, the heat disturbed the sleep of the dinosaurs who had lain hidden away for hundreds of years.
The dinosaurs claw their way to the earth’s surface and gradually set to restoring the planet. They clear away the rubbish, they break up the roads and life starts a-new on earth.
Telegraph poles and iron pylons vanished beneath trailing blossoms, and a fresh new forest of flowers and trees spread like a smile around the world.
The man responsible for the earth’s destruction arrives back on the planet and cannot believe it is the same place he abandoned. He is delighted, but he has not yet learned his lesson – he asks the dinosaurs for his own piece of land but they explain to him that
This time the earth belongs to everyone, not parts of it to certain people but all of it to everyone, to be enjoyed and cared for.
With such a serious message you might ask where is the fun in this book? And who is it aimed at? Well, despite the serious nature of the message this allegorical tale is told gently and sensitively. Both my children *love* it – not least (I think) because the dinosaurs save the earth (rather than the usual story of extinction which tends to come with dinosaurs), but also because the illustrations are so gorgeous. Michael Foreman uses beautifully bright watercolours to create scenes and characters that delight – his images of earth reborn are particularly rich and hopeful.
I don’t know how much of the underlying “message” the girls get, but they certainly enjoy the book and if they start to understand the importance of looking after our environment as a result of this, then I can barely imagine a better book.
Foreman has written several more books with a dinosaur theme (The Brontosaurus Birthday Cake, Brontosaurus Superstar, Tom and the Pterosaur and most recently The Little Dinosaur and The Littlest Dinosaur’s Big Adventure) which we are now on the look out for. Dinosaurs and all that rubbish would also pair wonderfully well with a recent book by Debi Gliori – The Trouble with Dragons – another perfect book for young children with a strong ecological message and fantastic illustrations.
A great book deserves a great crafty project and so we decided to make some dinosaur bunting to decorate the house on party day. Using the paper dinosaurs in Make your own paper dinosaurs by Sally and Steward Walton (which seems to be no longer in print) as our starting point for ideas on dinosaur templates and folding techniques, this is what we did.
1. I adapted the dinosaurs in Make your own paper dinosaurs, so that they were larger, easier to cut out and also so I was able to print multiple copies of the templates. If you want to create your own bunting here are links to pdf files I created which you can print and then cut to your heart’s content: tyrannosaurus, apatosaurus, plesiosaurus, pteranodon, stegosaurus and iguanadon.
NB Each of these documents is set up to print on A4 paper. If you use a different size of paper (eg US letter) you will need to check that the image prints in such a way that when you fold the paper in half the image aligns with the fold in the paper – your printer may well scale the pdf automatically, but do check this.
2. I printed out multiple copies of each dinosaur on different coloured paper, and then folded each piece of paper in half so that the image on each piece of paper was aligned with the fold.
3. All the dinosaurs were then cut out! Some children might be able to help with this stage, but M and J are too small for this type of cutting.
4. My lovely husband and I (with a little bit of help from my Dad!) spent an evening folding all the dinosaur templates into shape – not as complicated as it sounds, and certainly not as complicated as anything other than the simplest of origami. Again an older child might be able to do some of the folding. Here are the links to the folding guides:
5. Finally M and J could really get in on the act – I provided them with plenty of “scales” (i.e. geometrically shaped stickers) to decorate the dinosaurs.
6. Once all the dinos had had their scales added, I used a hole punch and some embroidery thread (but you could use string or ribbon) to enable us to hang up the dinosaurs.
7. We hung the dinos up along a ribbon to check everything was just right!
Now our lovely dinos are in storage until the big day when they will invade our kitchen once more
Please do feel free to use the templates and folding guides I’ve created – you could just make a dino scene rather than bunting. And of course, instead of stickers you could paint or colour your dinos. If you do create something along these lines please let me know – I’d love to see your creations.
Dino music will naturally enough be playing a big part at M’s party and I’ve had lots of fun creating a play list. Two of our favourite new finds are the Dinosaur Song by Johnny Cash, Dinosaur song by The Funky Mamas. Songs that we love which have an ecological message include Randy Kaplan’s Clothes Dryer and a recent find, The Lancashire Hotpots’ Don’t make the polar bears cry.
In addition to the bunting we will be creating some dino murals on wallpaper lining paper, so I’ve been looking at guides for drawing dinos. Here are some that have inspired me:
What books would you recommend about dinosaurs or “green” issues? I’d love to hear your suggestions