The Girl and the Dinosaur by Hollie Hughes

Values: Friendship, Imagination and Self-Belief.

This is a beautiful book about a little girl named Marianne who enjoys spending her days digging on the beach for dinosaur bones. She has a vivid and playful imagination, and one evening offers a special wish to the stars for her dinosaur to take her on a magical night-time adventure. Fortunately, this wish comes true! Marianne and the dinosaur (Bony) encounter fairies, unicorns and a moonlit island in the clouds. There, Marianne can make some friends, united by their imaginations. Back on Earth the next day, adults are oblivious to their children's imaginative adventures and the children happily continue to dig for dinosaurs under the sand.

The collaboration between author, Hollie Hughes, and illustrator, Sarah Massini, works perfectly to create a memorable and rich book. There are many year-groups you could use it with. I used it with Years 3 and 4 and linked it to our work on dinosaurs and fossils (their choice of topic). It was a fun and playful, rhyming text which linked beautifully to our work and also our conversations about Mary Anning. I really liked the way there was a book about dinosaurs with a strong, female protagonist too and some of the the girls in my class even commented on this! I know lots of younger classes have also enjoyed it.

The Values I will explore in this blog post are friendship, imagination and self-belief, although of course, these are not exhaustive. Firstly, there are examples of friendship in this book that children will be able to pick up on. The imaginary friendship between Marianne and Bony during their adventures is something lots of children will relate too. There are many children who have imaginary friends, and many who would love to be friends with a dinosaur, dragon, unicorn or other extinct/mythical creatures! At the beginning of the story, Marianne is shown to be alone and the fisherfolk worry about her lack of friends. This doesn't seem to worry Marianne though, who is happy digging for bones. An interesting question might be to ask children the difference between being alone and being lonely. By the end of the story, Marianne is playing on the beach with real friends - those united by their love of dinosaurs and creative imaginations. A lovely story with lots of reflection points about having things in common with your friends: asking children what they have in common with their friends can be very revealing!

Secondly, the Value of imagination. This book embodies the childlike nature of embracing imaginative worlds, and something that lots of us lose as we grow older. I think we should be openly encouraging children to use their imagination, develop it and return to it as they grow older. In the twenty-first century, so many jobs require innovate thinking - let's give children plenty of opportunities to celebrate their vivid imaginations! Asking the children which animal they would choose and the type of adventure they would go on would be a really fun activity as a response to the book.

Lastly, the Value of self-belief. This is a value that perhaps is relatively untouched, and yet it links with so many priorities that schools have - resilience, growth mindset and perseverance. In the story, Marianne is very content playing on the beach by herself. The adults worry about her, but Marianne is not concerned. She stays true to herself throughout the story and only makes friends with those who complement her. Marianne is a protagonist who displays inner confidence in her own passions and talents, and I think that's a powerful message for our children to see in books.

The beautiful artwork and poetic language in the book lends itself to use across the curriculum with different age children. We had a great time in Year 3 and 4 and the children produced some great artwork on dinosaurs and imaginary journeys of their choice. If you fancied getting hold of a copy yourself, you can find it in many bookshops. One of my favourites is The Book House in Thame, Bucks. A brilliant selection of books and fabulously -knowledgeable staff! You can also follow the author @holliejhughes and illustrator @SarahMassini on Twitter too.