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ALLY-SAURUS & the First Day of School by Richard Torrey

Ally-saurus & the First Day of School
Written and illustrated by Richard Torrey
(Sterling Children’s Books; $14.95, Ages 3-6 )

Starred Review – Publishers Weekly


Even dinosaurs get starting school jitters, in fact, maybe even those who are actually little girls pretending to be dinosaurs.

“Do you think there will be other dinosaurs in my class?” asked Ally-saurus.
“I think you’re going to make a lot of new friends,” said Mother.

Introducing Ally-saurus, an enthusiastic, pig-tailed little girl with an active imagination. At first it seems that making friends will not be easy. None of Ally-saurus’ classmates chomp their snack with fierce teeth or “ROAR!” like she does. Instead they eat quietly much to Ally-saurus’ surprise. She was expecting everyone to be wild about dinos just like her.

Torrey cleverly uses black and white plus a lot of shading in his illustrations so the snippets of color that he adds stand out and really a make a statement. For example, a pink tail and ridges crayoned onto Ally-saurus throughout the book indicate that Ally is imagining herself as a Stegosaurus. Later, Robert is the first classmate to get his hint of blue color as he imagines himself to be an astronaut when he and Ally-saurus cut out nameplate designs for their cubbies. During a lesson on the weather followed by one about letters, three princesses begin voicing their opinions as gold crowns and dresses are outlined on them.

Then, at lunchtime Ally-saurus is told by these princesses that:

“These seats are saved for princesses, not dinosaurs,” said Tina.
“You’re not a real princess!” roared Ally-saurus.
“You’re not a real dinosaur,” said Tina.
“Then why am I eating dinosaur food?” asked Ally-saurus.
“That’s baloney!” said Tina, and the other princesses giggled.

Ally-saurus is left to sit alone elsewhere until she is joined by several other students, all eager to share what they enjoy pretending to be. “Soon the whole table was roaring and chomping.” It isn’t long before Ally-saurus and the kids from her lunch table are running around during recess playing make-believe and having a blast. Ally-saurus realizes too that dinos and princesses can find common ground over pretend cups of tea.

Class Picture.jpg
Reprinted with permission from Ally-saurus & the First Day of School © 2015 by Richard Torrey, Sterling Children’s Books, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. Illustrations by Richard Torrey.

Best of all, in the school library, (my favorite place), Ally-saurus along with her classmates discover there are books about all kinds of things … including bunnies. And guess who’s got a pink bunny tail and bunny ears drawn on when she hops out of bed the next morning? Note: There’s an unassuming little bunny lamp on a night table in the last illustration. Plus, Torrey has cleverly covered the endpapers in front with dinos and at the back with bunnies, something I only noticed on the second read! That’s sure to make children want to go back again and again to look for more details.

Add Ally-saurus & the First Day of School to your back-to-school list for an ideal picture book to share with youngsters. It’ll help them realize they’re not the only ones who get nervous starting school. It’s also a great way to start the conversation about the give and take necessary to form and keep friendships.

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

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Thinking Girls

Six Historical Women Who Helped to Shape the World

Today’s review comes courtesy of regular contributor, Debbie Glade, an original thinking girl herself!

I was thrilled to receive a stack of six shiny new books in the series The Thinking Girl’s Treasury of Real Princesses by author Shirin Yim Bridges. I read them at the same time all the festivities with the royal wedding of William and Kate were taking place making it all the more relevant. This series teaches readers ages 9-13, that being a real life princess is not so much about donning jewels and modeling gowns as it is about having the courage to work against all odds during a time when women were not respected as leaders. What is more interesting than learning about strong historic women living in a man’s world, who dared to break the rules to rewrite the history books?

The stories are rich in historical facts and are rather sophisticated, ideal for advanced readers. A great deal of time went into researching the rich legends of these 6 historical women; each of the books go into detail about what where they came from, when they lived, what they wore at the time and what they accomplished. Visually each book uses a mixture of photographs, maps, period art reproductions and original paintings by artist Albert Nguygen. The books are attractive, however I would have preferred to see more illustrations rather than the eclectic combination of visuals these books offer.

s1b2_coverArtemisia of Caria – Princess Artemesia lived in 500BC in ancient Greece, during a time when women were expected to obey their husbands and spend time at home weaving. Artemisia grew up to be a sailor, the captain of a ship, and ultimately a celebrated admiral during the great Persian Wars. Her claim to fame was when she bravely advised King Xerxes not to fight his Persian fleet against the Greeks; the king did not listen and was terribly defeated.

s1b1_coverHatshepsut of Egypt – Born around 1500 BC, Hatshepsut was the favorite child of her father, Pharaoh Thutmose I. After the death of 3 of her siblings, the Pharaoh insisted that Hatshepsut marry her half brother. He soon became Pharaoh Thutmose II, but quickly died, leaving Hatshepsut as Queen. Despite the fact that she was a woman, in 2 years she was declared Pharaoh, King of Egypt. She established trade relationships with faraway lands, traveling overseas on Egyptian boats. Her relationships helped Egypt’s economy thrive over the 22 years of her well-respected reign.

s1b5_coverIsabella of Castile – This 15th century princess of Spain chose her own husband during a time when husbands were chosen for women of her stature. Unlike any other woman of her time, she insisted that her husband-to-be sign an agreement that she would retain her powers as Queen, among other stipulations. Isabella and Ferdinand lived to be one of the most famous royal couples in history, best known for funding Christopher Columbus’ most renowned journey; it was supposed to be an expedition discover a new route to Asia, but it turned out to be a discovery of the Americas.

s1b6_coverNur Jahan of India – Nur Jahan was born with the name of Mihr al-Nisa around 1600 AD, during the Moghul Dynasty. When she was young, she met and later in her 30s, married Emperor Jahangir. She was said to be the 20th of the Emperor’s wives! She had great passion for the arts, particularly fashion, and even designed fabrics. She gradually helped her husband rule the court and the country and was credited for greatly increasing India’s trade with other nations and helping to improve lives for the women of India. Following her husband’s death, Nur Jahan led the army in a battle for power and eventually exiled to safety on a generous pension.

s1b4_coverQutlugh Terkan Khutun of Kirman – Before becoming a princess Qutlugh was born into a noble family as Halal Khatun in the 13th century in Persia (what is now part of Iran). When she was a child she was taken and sold as a slave; she never saw her family again. After a series of challenging events, Halal Khatun was adopted by a merchant and eventually married Prince Qutb al-Din to become Princess Qutlugh. After her husband’s death she took reign of the kingdom and worked against all odds to be accepted by her people.

s1b3_coverSorghaghtani of Mongolia – Sorghaghtani was a princess of the Kereit tribe of Mongolia around 1200 AD. At a young age she married Tolui, one of Genghis Khan’s sons, and she had four sons. Her family lived a nomadic way of life in tents called gers. Following the death of Genghis Khan and the sudden death of her husband Tolui, Princess Sorghaghtani became the ruler of Mongolia. She worked closely with the people of her lands to help improve farming conditions, restoring the area to its former wealth and earning a great deal of respect from the people of Mongolia and other parts of Asia.

After reading each of the books in this series, I learned so much and am compelled to research these fascinating historical figures further. Perhaps young girls who read these books will be inspired to do great things themselves.

debbiegladeDebbie Glade, today’s guest reviewer, is the author, illustrator and voice talent of the award-winning children’s picture book The Travel Adventures of Lilly P Badilly: Costa Rica, published by Smart Poodle Publishing. She visits South Florida schools with her reading, writing and geography programs. For years, Debbie was a travel writer for luxury cruise lines. She writes parenting articles for various websites and is the Geography Awareness Editor for She blogs daily at

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