by Mo Willems
Many people love author/illustrator Mo Willems for the wit and humor in his fun Pigeon books or the sentimental Knuffle Bunny, but our family most enjoys his lesser-known titles. Edwina, the Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was Extinct is a top 10 read aloud in our household. When I discovered Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs, I was psyched to see yet another dinosaur-related book from Willems.
The title clues you in that this will be a re-telling of the classic fairy tale. A great way to capture kids’ interest is to make them laugh by reading the title, alone. Check! Another great way to capture kids’ interest is to feature dinosaurs. Check! Before you open the book, they’re already curious and giggling. And, of course, it doesn’t stop there.
Instead of meeting a bear family, we meet a mother and father dinosaur. Where’s the baby in this version of the tale? He’s been replaced by the very random “some other dinosaur” who is visiting from Norway. Cue the giggles! Willems tells the story with playful irony. The dinosaurs were “definitely not hiding in the woods waiting for an unsuspecting kid to come by.” The “poorly supervised” Goldilocks thinks she hears the dinosaurs yelling at one another regarding her demise, “but that could have been a rock falling. Or a squirrel.” She’s a girl on a mission, and she thinks she’s going to the three bears’ house like the story is supposed to go. Yet…
Everything she sees in the house is scaled HUGE (you know, they’re dinosaurs), but naive Goldilocks pays no mind to that being out of the ordinary. She smells chocolate pudding, which is much more appealing than porridge, no? After gorging on pudding, she needs to have a seat. All the chairs were far too tall for her, and she decides to rest in the bedroom. She gets a little irritated when she sees that even the beds are huge and couldn’t possibly be for bears. Yet she sticks around until she finally hears what is “either a passing truck or a Dinosaur gloating, ‘A few more minutes and she’ll be asleep! Delicious chocolate-filled-little-girl-bonbons are yummier when they’re rested!'” Kids reading along or listening to the story will have slapped their heads 14 times by now because of Goldilocks’ obliviousness. But they will cheer as it finally clicks for her! She takes a minute to look around, realizes where she is, and then she bolts to safety.
The silliness of the re-tell is obvious and fun and quirky, but a real bonus in this book is the background humor in the illustrations. Searching for jokes in the wall art, decorations, signs, etc., is a great activity for repeated reads. Older, nerdier kids will love the Science and Geography jokes — like the wall calendar that says, “Norway – ‘Gateway to Sweden;'” and a basketball team poster in the bedroom features a dinosaur in a sweatband with the text, “Go Asteroids! Feel the Boom!” Aaaaah, extinction humor! There are many little funny surprises in this book, and it makes it very enjoyable for kids and adults. While the target audience for a read aloud is usually preschool-first grade, Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs is a great selection to read to most school-aged children… especially if you’re very good at faking a Norwegian dinosaur accent.