Drumheller Dinosaur Dance

Reviewed: December 10, 2004
By: Robert Heidbreder / illustrated by Bill Slavin and Esperanta Melo
Publisher: Kids Can Press
32 pages, $17.95

Drumheller is, of course, the site of the Tyrrell Museum, named in honour of a fellow who also spent some time in the Klondike (1899-1905) after having earlier discovered dinosaur bones in Alberta's badlands.

That much of this book is real. The remainder is a delightful romp into the realms of fantasy, animated by the conceit that “dem bones” just might rise up and dance about when the moon is just right.

“But when the moon is in the sky

Drumheller dinosaurs transmogrify.

They stir their bones from secret cracks

and assemble themselves - fronts, sides and backs.”

Then they're off with a clatter and a rattle to a place where they can celebrate their dinosaurness in ways which sound a lot like a prairie thunderstorm. But the kids know what it really is, and they dream about it and imagine what it might be like to watch the gathering, or perhaps even to participate.

Heidbreder is a teacher and author of children's books who has produced an infectious rhyme based on the rhythms of the phrase “Drumheller dinosaurs” which is repeated on nearly every page of the book.

Slavin and Melo have matched the mood of the poem, and provided a framework which suggests what the poem never says, that this is all taking place in the mind of a sleeping child whose enthusiasm for dinosaurs has taken over his dreams.

The book reads well out loud and seems to get better with repetition.