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Book Review and Author Interview (The Cloudosaurus Rex by Emma R. McNally)

Title: The Cloudosaurus Rex
Author: Emma R. McNally
Genre: Children’s Book / Picture Book

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My Review of The Cloudosaurus Rex

Angels in snow, castles on sand, figures in clouds... stuff that childhood memories and grown-up relaxation moments are made of.
Just as common is the fascination with dinosaurs.

Emma R. McNally's The Cloudosaurus Rex is a story of dinosaurs in the sky.
"The Cloudosaurus Rex is the king of the sky."

And he's not there just for show.
"And it's he who decides if it's wet or dry."

How is he like then?
"Some days he's friendly and others he's rude!"

How does it affect us?
"The weather we see is the same as his mood."

I have always loved reading Dr Seuss books aloud (much to my kids' indignation) with their rhyming, repeating lines and fun rhythm. I asked the author about this in my interview to her, which follows this review.
I enjoyed reading The Cloudosaurus Rex aloud on my own, and to my children too. They like to pretend they are too grown up for all this but they do join in after a while.

"Stand on one leg and close one eye.
Tilt your head and look to the sky.
Can you see him? What is his mood?
Should we wear sandals or a snuggly snood?"

A warm children's book for all seasons, The Cloudosaurus Rex has me looking for dinosaurs in the sky now...

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The italicised text in quotation marks are quotes from the book.

My Interview with the author, Emma R. McNally

Watching clouds and imagining shapes in them is part of every childhood, yes. But how did you think of a dinosaur in the clouds? Was it as simple as seeing a dinosaur shape, or is there more to the thought process behind Cloudosaurus?

The idea of writing about clouds came when I was in a plane on the way home from a holiday. I was playing around with words in my notebook, as normal, and I looked out of the window and let my mind wander. Some of the lines that popped into my thoughts were
'Clouds are like people, if you study their shape,
they will show their emotions by the movements they make.'

I liked the idea of being able to tell how people were feeling and making a comparison with clouds and the weather. There was a cloud in the distance that seemed to stand above the rest in the shape of an animal, but it wasn't until I got home that I developed the idea into the Cloudosaurus Rex.

I love Dr Seuss. And the repeated rhymes in your book immediately made me think of him. Is he an influence on you? Which children's book authors are you inspired by?

To be mentioned in the same sentence as Dr Seuss is a huge compliment and one I can only hope to aspire to, thank you. I love his work, especially the fact that he was also both an author and illustrator. I am also inspired by AA Milne, not just for his timeless Winnie the Pooh stories but also his wonderful poems, my favourite being: 'Us Two'.

Do you do illustrations first or the writing? Or is it a simultaneous process?

I always write first and then illustrate. When I am writing, I do have very clear images in my mind of the characters and what they should look like, which I then translate into pictures.

Who are the first readers/critics of your book?

My husband and Mum are always the first. My husband is brutally honest and always right!
I then continue to work on the book until we are in agreement that it is ready and I send it off to my editor.

Back to Dr Seuss, I have always been fascinated by his usage of a set number of words in some of his books. The logic being, to choose words that kids can easily understand.
When writing, how often would you find yourself searching for a simpler word?

I am always very conscious of making sure the language I use is at the right level. I consider every word I use as I believe there is a find balance between using language that a child can understand, wanting to help them to grow their vocabulary, as well as not wanting to 'write down' to them or be patronising.
For example, in The Cloudosaurus Rex, I use the words 'snuggly snood' - some children may not know what a snood is, but I decided to keep it in along with an illustration. It turned out to be the right decision as at a local recently, this phrase was the one that they loved saying and called out the loudest!

I saw from your blog and website ( that you spend a lot of time with children. There are many fun pics of you with kids in schools, etc. Any experience from these visits that stands out in your memory?

There are so many great experiences but a few definitely stand out. Some funny; such as when I asked a class: 'what is an author?' and one little girl answered: 'is it an alien?'
Through to the amazing feeling just before Christmas when I was at a school and finished reading one of my stories, closed the book and the children spontaneously ask to hear it again.
The most recent experience that stands out was when I performed The Cloudosaurus Rex for the first time in front of 240 children; they joined in with the actions, called out the rhyming verse and the noise as they roared like a Cloudosaurus Rex nearly took the roof off!

On a personal note... ever been to India? If not, any plans? :)

No I haven't and as I normally have ideas when I am away, this would be a great location for a new story. This year I am visiting Isle of Skye to do some research on my next character (not wanting to give too much away) as well as Canada, so maybe next year? Who knows!

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Look forward to reading a book based in India, with nice colourful illustrations. And I especially loved reading about the experiences with the children.

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