*Tommysaurus Rex by Doug TenNapel

Tommysaurus Rex by Doug TenNapel.  Scholastic (Graphix), ask 2013.  238 pages. 

Reading Level: Middle grades, ages 8-10

Maturity Level: 3 (ages 8-10) and up

Bottom line: This graphic novel’s humor and lively drawing style are made-to-order for middle-grade boys, but it also deals thoughtfully with important themes. 

Ely’s best friend is a dog, which seems pretty normal except that Tommy (the dog) is his only friend. tommysaurus Ely’s parents worry about this, but worry takes a back seat when Tommy is hit by a car.  To help Ely get his mind off the grief, his folks send him to stay at Grandpa’s farm where steaks come with the territory and he can drink all the root beer he wants.  There’s work involved too, but after a few days of aches in hitherto-unsuspected muscles, Ely can handle that.  What he can’t handle is Randy, the neighborhood bully.  After Randy smears his face with dog poop, Ely finds the perfect instrument of revenge: a real, live Tyrannosaurus Rex, who was apparently hibernating in a cave on the farm for the last few eons. 

Except for his inconvenient size, Rex is a great pet: friendly, playful, loving—and terrified of fire.  There’s a reason for this, and a reason why Randy is a jerk, and a reason why Tommy was taken—all to be revealed in TenNapel’s gripping graphics style and lively color.  Boys will love it, not least because of its frank exposition of the dinosaur digestive process.  But also for the heartfelt themes of fatherhood, forgiveness, and friendship.  The story goes where we don’t necessarily want it to go, but it’s hard to think of any other way it should end.  If your kids read it, alternate endings would be an interesting discussion topic.

Also by this author: Ghostopolis and Cardboard.

Cautions: Mild Vulgarity (potty humor), Sad Situations

Overall value: 4.5 (out of 5)

  • Worldview/moral value: 4.5
  • Artistic value: 4.5

Categories: Graphic Novel, Fantasy, Middle Grades, Life Issues, Starred Review





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Janie is the VERY senior staff writer for Redeemed Reader, as well as a long-time contributor to WORLD Magazine and an author of nine books for children. The rest of the time she's long-distance smooching on her four grandchildren (not an easy task). She lives with her equally senior husband of almost-fifty years in the Ozarks of Missouri.


  1. Betsy on February 12, 2014 at 9:04 am

    i have both of these out from the library! Can’t wait to read them.

  2. Betsy on February 12, 2014 at 11:29 am

    Oh, one more thing–when TenNapel was at UT giving a talk, he said to think of this as a Resurrection story, an Easter story… when you read it with that in mind, it’s pretty neat…

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