• Happy birthday Antonio Frasconi (Elijah the Slave), Lois Duncan (I Know What You Did Last Summer, Hotel for Dogs), Ben Shecter (The Hating Book, Great-Uncle Alfred Forgets), Brett Harvey (My Prairie Year), Diane Hoh (Nightmare Hall series), Marvin Terban (In a Pickle: And Other Funny Idioms), Terry Pratchett (Nation), Debbie Duncan (When Mollie Was in the Hospital ), and Amy Hest (When Jessie Came Across the Sea).
  • It’s the birth date of Palmer Cox (1840-1924), The Brownies, Barbara Juster Esbensen (1925-1996), Swing around the Sun.
  • Best birthday wishes to Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird). Read I Am Scout: The Biography of Harper Lee by Charles J. Shields.

From April 26- May 5, we celebrate National Dance Week, a time to reflect on the benefits and beauty of dance and its ability “to enrich our lives, our bodies, our spirits and our culture.” Dance, dancers, and ballet have always proved fertile ground for children’s book creators. Angelina Ballerina  and Ballet of the Elephants have already been reviewed for the Almanac. The best book on dance that I have seen in years, Ballet for Martha by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, will be reviewed on May 11, Martha Graham’s birthday.

And today I present a fabulous picture book that makes me laugh every time I read it. In more than eighty books, including those about the famous vampire bunny Bunnicula, author James Howe has proved himself a comic master. He knows how to tell a very funny story that also motivates readers to keep turning the pages. His books often win awards selected by children. His text for Brontorina, which appeared in 2010, stands with the best of his work. Not only has he found a funny premise for a book, he has delivered it on point.

Brontorina Apatosaurus has a dream—a dream shared by many youngsters. She wants to dance, and so she appears, somewhat timidly, at Madame Lucille’s Dance Academy for Girls and Boys. Madame Lucille quickly spots a problem—Brontorina is a dinosaur, a large dinosaur. “But in my heart,” our heroine says, “I am a ballerina.” So with a command, “Please try not to squash the other dancers,” Madame Lucille begins her training—plie, releve, arabesque, and jete. The students become enamored of Brontorina. One of the other dancer’s mothers fashions special shoes for her. And Madame Lucille decides to find larger space, so her star pupil can dance. When they go outdoors, to perform en plein air, other dinosaurs, cows, and hippos join the ranks. The final page, which shows Brontorina being held overhead in a ballet pose, ends with the words, And it all began with a dream.

Like the best picture book text, Brontorina provides ample opportunity for an illustrator to add magic. Randy Cecil plays that humor to full advantage, as he shows the dinosaur in all the poses. On each page he uses Brontorina’s circular shape to balance his composition. In this book both the author and illustrator have executed some flawless dance steps themselves, moving in perfect unison.

The entire performance makes readers want to reread the book and/or head to the next ballet in town. If you do, this book provides a perfect fantasy line—“Do you think Brontorina will perform today?”

Here’s a page from Brontorina:


Originally posted April 28, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: Dance, Dinosaurs, Humor
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Brontorina


  1. Erica S. says:

    I missed this one when it came out but will be checking it out immediately. If just this one page made me laugh out loud, I can’t wait to read the whole book!

  2. Jory Hearst says:

    A coworker staff-picked this when it first came out, and we’ve been selling it really nicely ever since! I agree that James Howe has enormouse kid-appeal, and this is both a funny and sweet book.

  3. Kristi Hazelrigg says:

    I haven’t read this one. I must get a copy today!

  4. Anita says:

    Thanks for your posts. I just had a note from someone who mentioned how well this worked for preschoolers. They all loved the story; the dinosaurs served as the hook for the boys.

  5. Barbara Gogan says:


    It’s so funny to go on the Minuteman Library site and see the books you highlight get requested! I just put in the 2nd request for this one.

  6. Vicki Solomon says:

    I don’t know how I missed this one. But it’s funny that you mention that Howe is often chosen by children as a favorite. We just had a school-wide vote for the most popular literary rabbit (year of the rabbit and all). Bunnicula won, hands down, in a field of real contenders!

  7. Anita says:

    Barbara: Thanks for telling me this — I hadn’t checked the Minuteman Library site (Boston area) for requests. But one of the chief joys of the Almanac, for me, comes when I can recommend a book I love to someone who doesn’t know it yet.

  8. Laurie says:

    I always recommend this one at the children’s bookstore where I work. I love how 2 of the children stand up for Brontorina and the mean children are proven wrong but everyone is happy with the results at the end!

  9. Margaret Mennone says:

    I love this one too! I have found it to be a big hit when I’ve read it at story time. Like Laurie, I recommend this one at the store where I work. People often ask for “dance” stories, and they usually have Angelina at home already. This one is a little bit different, but I think the humor really gets people interested and you can’t help but fall in love with Brontorina herself.

  10. Randy says:

    Hi Anita– I love your blog and look forward to reading it every day. So it was a fantastic and completely unexpected surprise to find one of my own books here this morning! Thank you!

  11. Anita says:

    Randy: Thanks for the kind comments — but mainly thanks for all your great books!

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