Syd Hoff was a well-known cartoonist for The New Yorker magazine before he began writing “I Can Read” books for children. Danny and the Dinosaur, Hoff’s first book for the series, was published in 1958, the year after Harper & Row (now HarperCollins) began the series.
I discovered Syd Hoff in our school library when I was in first grade, so Danny and the Dinosaur is nostalgic for me. I remember that I loved Hoff’s illustrations, and was happy to find that he had written several books. Because they each had a different main character, I enjoyed the similar style without being intimidated by the need to finish a series.
Nostalgia aside, I still appreciate Hoff’s work. His illustration style is appealing. His pictures are old-fashioned, but not dated to the point where today’s young readers will wonder what the characters are doing. Hoff is able to tell an interesting story, keeping the vocabulary decipherable for beginning readers without sounding formulaic.
In this story, the title character visits a museum where he is particularly fascinated by the dinosaur exhibit. Danny, thinking out loud, says it would be nice to play with a dinosaur, and he hears a voice answering that it would be nice to play with Danny. It is the voice of one of the dinosaurs.
Danny and the dinosaur go out into the town, drawing lots of attention, but also being helpful.
Danny rounds up his friends and shares the dinosaur experience with them.
At the end of a wonderful day, Danny wishes the dinosaur could stay with him. But the dinosaur says he has to get back to the museum because they need him there.
I suppose most children have imagined what it would be like if dinosaurs still roamed the earth. In reality, children will understand that it’s probably a good thing they don’t. But what fun to imagine all the things you could do if you had a day to spend with a friendly dinosaur. This story is good, clean fun.
The majority of the vocabulary would fall into the high-frequency category, words common in beginning readers. There are visual clues for many of the more difficult words like “policeman,” “bundles,” and “buildings,” and you will be there to help with “dinosaur,” “knock,” “million,” and “delighted.”
You can buy Danny and the Dinosaur at amazon.com.
For more recommendations, please see the lists on our Early Readers page.