This promises to be a great series. What child has not dreamed of dinosaurs, and what it would have been like to be alive alongside them? Charles Eades provides children with an imaginative foray into this possibility by time-travelling a group of them (together with a cluster of school buildings that had also – appropriately – become extinct) back into the Jurassic Era.
With a tongue-in-cheek nod to Enid Blyton’s ‘Famous Five’ series – and doubtless with the hope of achieving similar commercial success – the group comprises two girls, two boys and a dog. These children, however, are not from the same class as Blyton’s. They are from that stratum of childhood and adolescence described by the author as “vandals and reprobates who were rarely seen in their own, fully-functioning classrooms”.
They are exploring “the creepy abandoned school their parents had warned them to stay away from” because it was the summer holidays, and there was little entertainment to be had in the small town they came from. Adam is precocious and irritating. His friend Rory is irritating and slightly neurotic. The girls – Fran and Sally – and their Staffordshire bull terrier Elsie have “been tasked with amusing themselves”, and are hanging out with the boys “more from familiarity than any great deal of regard.” They discover an amazing machine whirring away in one of the classrooms. It isn’t disguised as an old police box, but familiarity with The Tardis will help young readers suspend disbelief in what happens next (not that young readers need much help when it comes to rip-roaring adventures like this). Adam starts tinkering and WOOSH! In no time they are scrambling to avoid being trampled to death by a herd of Iguanodons.
Written in a highly accessible and amusing style, “The Forbidden School of Dinosaurs” is a great way for children to amuse themselves in the school holidays, or indeed at any other time they feel like losing themselves in an entertaining story. Along the way, they should pick up some good habits to incorporate into their own stories. The dialogue is believable, the situations intriguing, the characterisation interesting and the descriptive details excellent and evocative.
I had the privilege of working with Charles when he was a pupil writing increasingly entertaining stories throughout his time at secondary school. I can therefore reliably report that several years later, the narrative technique of this talented and well-qualified young author has blossomed as I knew it would. I look forward to reading further books in this series.