Today we feature a picture book with a gentle message about resilience and teamwork. In The Dinosaur Who Lost Her Voice, the main character Milly Jo becomes voiceless during the course of the story, but learns to find her shine a different way. The fun story conveys a positive message for children about not giving up but instead focusing on everything they can do in life.
Read on for our Review Panel's review of the book and a special guest post from author Julie about the real-life inspiration behind the story.
Book Title: The Dinosaur Who Lost Her Voice (available here)
Author: Julie Ballard
Illustrator: Francesca Gambatesa
Publication Date: June 2019
Most Suitable For: EYFS & KS1
Reviewed By: Jo Littlewood, Year 1 Teacher
Dinosaur Milly Jo loves to sing and enjoys performing for her dinosaur friends. One night there is a terrible storm and a tree falls on Milly Jo's neck. The next day, she is heartbroken. She can't sing a note. Her friends rally round and realise that when she sang, it cheered them up. Perhaps their singing could do the same for Milly Jo. Sadly not, and they make an awful din. Can Milly Jo overcome her sadness and teach her friends how to sing? And will Milly Jo realise she is still a valuable member of her group of friends with her own contribution to make?
With bright pictures of colourful dinosaurs, this rhyming picture book will quickly engage children's attention. The steady rhythm of the story with gentle rhythmic and rhyming pattern tells a story of friendship and positivity in the face of adversity. The vibrant pictures complement the story perfectly and the bold, shaped text will hold a child's attention throughout the story.
As I read this book, I quickly saw how its musical themes could be used to introduce basic musical terminology to children just beginning to learn about music with opportunities to talk about pitch, volume and introduce notation. Older children could even be encouraged to create their own tune to accompany the rhythmic text. Children could be encouraged to tap a steady pulse as the story is read. While reading, young children could use their knowledge of rhyme to complete the lines in the story or later find the rhyming words within the text.
I would also encourage teachers to use this text as a way into talking about how practise can help you to improve your skills, about not giving up on finding your talents regardless of perceived disabilities and about the incredibly important theme of resilience when life's challenges come and go.
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Guest Blog Post
by Julie Ballard, author of The Dinosaur Who Lost Her Voice
“Sometimes bad things happen for a reason.”
If I’d have been told this six years ago in the midst of an almost panic-stricken race to help my youngest son acquire speech, I would have emphatically disagreed.
After all, isn’t communication fundamental to one’s life chances? Also, as I believed at the time, aren’t all children who can’t speak either hearing-impaired or profoundly disabled? Aside from the above, I embarrassingly and naively assumed children with speech difficulties were the offspring of irresponsible parents who would rather sit them in front of the TV than play and interact with them.
How wrong I was!
I learnt the hard way that children who struggle to speak can suffer severe language difficulties for any number of reasons that don’t relate to hearing problems or poor parenting, although these can and do impact on speech.
It was my own son’s struggle with a severe speech disorder which was the inspiration for my debut picture book “The Dinosaur Who Lost Her Voice,” illustrated by Francesca Gambatesta and published by EGMONT.
During the story, jungle singer extraordinaire Brontosaurus Milly Jo loses her magnificent singing voice. However, it is her capacity to pick herself up (with the help of her friends) and focus on everything she CAN do, which is at the heart of what I hope readers will consider an enjoyable, inspirational and uplifting story.
Milly Jo learns a new skill which enables her to continue with her passion for singing - albeit in a different way. The idea for Milly learning a new skill stemmed from living with the reality that my son might never be able to speak. If he couldn’t talk, how could he communicate? As a family we learnt a new skill (MAKATON sign language) with him. Milly Jo Brontosaurus is pictured using sign language in the book.
Additionally, we gave him a camera and encouraged him to take photos. We considered that if speech proved elusive long-term perhaps, in the future, he could communicate through the visual arts? When he was nearly four, one of his photos was used by a local senior citizens’ magazine. The editor was surprised to learn the photography credit belonged to a small child!
With huge amounts of daily speech therapy, music therapy, dietary changes and medical assistance at home and abroad, my son learnt to speak. Today, he remembers very little of his early struggles, speaks perfectly and sings beautifully during his singing lessons.
I would like to think I have acquired more patience, a greater understanding of speech disorders and am slower to judge. The adage that you shouldn’t criticise someone without having first walked a mile in their shoes rang true for me and not because, as Steve Martin jokes “That way, when you do criticise them, you’ll be a mile away and have their shoes!” but because having a child with any type of challenge can be hugely stressful and worrying.
Besides being a parent who is immensely proud of her son for the mountain he climbed, I am also proud to be the author of a picture book which tackles the subjects of diversity and resilience in a positive, age-appropriate and, I hope, exciting way.
Perhaps, I might even grudgingly admit, sometimes bad things do happen for a reason? Just as long as they don’t happen too often!
Many thanks to Julie for writing the guest blog post and sending us a review copy of this book and to Review Panel Jo member for reviewing it.
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