Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Children's Book Review: 'The Adventures of Jo Schmo: Dinos Are Forever' by Greg Trine

The Adventures of Jo Schmo: Dinos are Forever by Greg Trine
illustrated by Frank W. Dormer
Harcourt Children's Books, 2012

Dinos are Forever is the first book in the new series The Adventures of Jo Schmo by Greg Trine which will likely appeal to both girls and boys of upper elementary school age.

Jo is a fourth grader whose grandfather (also named Joe) is a retired sheriff and lives in a shack in her family's backyard. When Jo receives a mysterious package from her uncle George, which contains a superhero cape and an instruction manual, she decides to try her hand at fighting crime as well.

With her dog, Raymond, as a sidekick, Jo creates a hideout and invents a Schmomobile then sets off about the business of catching bank robbers and saving the day. Her crime-stopping adventures become more challenging when a mad scientist sets out to bring dinosaurs from the Museum of Natural History to life to do evil in the city.

Trine cleverly plays on cliches and stereotypes throughout the story. Not only are the main character and her grandfather named Jo(e) Schmo, but Jo's best friends at school are Tom, Dick, and Harry. The mad scientist is named Dr. Dastardly and frequently says, "Mwah-ha-ha" both to call his assistant Pete and as an expression of joy (which can be confusing to Pete).

Jo's dog Raymond, for some reason, drools uncontrollably every time his superhero cape is put on, and chases his tail "at such superhero speed" that it drills holes in the backyard, which Jo and her grandfather fill with water and use as jacuzzis. This random and outlandish humor is spot-on for elementary school students, who will be carried along by the story and pulled in by Frank W. Dormer's simple but entertaining black and white comic strip-like illustrations throughout. Parents will also enjoy the allusions to superheros that they remember from their childhood, so this would be a fun read for the whole family.

Greg Trine lives in his hideout in California, where he has been saving the world since the seventh grade.  When he is not ridding the world of devious and sinister bad guys, he is either trying to invent a new flavor of ice cream—his last one was Rainbow Trout Ripple—or writing funny books.

Renée Vaillancourt McGrath has worked at Montana Public Radio as a program host since 2002. Her background is in librarianship and she currently works as a freelance editor and website designer and developer. Check out more of her book reviews at reneesreads.com.

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