Teaching My Baby To Read

I can’t believe I have never read Dinotopia by James Gurney before now! What type of former elementary school teacher am I? Really, I am truly appalled at myself. 🙂

Bruce(6.5) and I spent a whole week reading Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time — 20th Anniversary Edition (Calla Editions) as part of my SLE Inspired Reading List part 2. I chose Dinotopia as homage to Sir Thomas Moore’s famous work Utopia. Here are the learning goals from my SLE Inspired Reading List:

Learning Goals for Children

  • We are all capable of thinking our own thoughts and forming our own ideas. We do not need to be slaves to the thinking of others.
  • We are responsible for our own actions, and are accountable for our actions to our own conscious, our families, and our community. Many people in the world believe we are also accountable to God.

Learning Goals from Dinotopia

  • “Utopian” is a word that describes a specific genre of literature.
  • In utopian societies, individuals give up certain liberties, and are willing to live in a unique way, in order to be part of a community that is peaceful and prosperous.
  • Thinking question: “Would you be willing to _________ in order to live in a community like Dinotopia where ___________?”

Dinotopia is unusual in that it is a giant, 159 page picture book written at a fourth or fifth grade level. Reading it with Bruce made me realize that early, advanced readers like him can really miss out on the “picture book experience” with their mom and dad. Of course we read tons of picture books with him when he was littler, but now we usually concentrate on chapter books. Dinotopia was the best of both worlds, in that it was advanced content combined with stunning illustrations.

In addition to the beautiful pictures, my two other favorite parts of Dinotopia were the Dinotopian greeting “Breathe deep. Seek Peace”, and the Code of Dinotopia on page 77:

Survival of all or none.

One raindrop raises the sea.

Weapons are enemies even to their owners.

Give more, take less.

Others first, self last.

Observe, listen, and learn.

Do one thing at a time.

Sing every day.

Excercise imagination.

Eat to live, don’t live to eat.

Don’t p…(remaining text missing.)

In case you didn’t catch that, the first letters spell “Sow Good Seeds”. I thought this was a wonderful code of ethics to discuss with my young son. Not to sound too sacrilegious, but the Code of Dinotopia is a lot more relatable to a six year old than the Ten Commandments, although of course Bruce is familiar with that too.

Some of the reviews I have read about Dinotopia really bash George Lucas for supposedly ripping-off James Gurney for a lot of his ideas. No kidding! When you are looking at Waterfall City of pages 62-63 it is like looking at a much more beautiful version of Naboo, from Start Wars Episode 1. There are some other similarities as well, that lead me to believe George Lucas was seriously inspired by Dinotopia. Apparently, James Gurney has been very gracious about the whole thing.

There are at least two sequels to Dinotopia, that I am very anxious to read and will definitely be purchasing in the future. James Gurney has created a meaningful and magical world that is exciting for adults to share with children.

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