There are a lot of great things about If I Had a Raptor by George O'Connor, creator of the Olympians series of graphic novels, but what I like most is the way that O'Connor subtly replaces the expected with the uncommon. A raptor stands in for a cat and, in this time when the conversation about the abundance of white boys in children's literature is starting to take precedence, a little girl of color takes the place of what would undoubtedly, even a few years ago, especially in a book about dinosaurs, been a white boy. Bravo to O'Connor for subverting the dominant paradigm. But, above all else, congratulations on writing a n entertaining and funny picture book about the ups and downs of having a pet!
The story begins visually a few pages before the words when a little girl comes across a box on the street labeled, "Free Raptors." Inside are very fluffy, cute and colorful creatures with big, pleading eyes. Our young narrator begins the story by telling us that, is she had a raptor, she'd want to "get her as a baby when she's all teensy and tiny and funny and fluffy," and easy to lose. Our narrator would give that little raptor a collar with a bell on it so she could always find her! Kids know that nothing stays cute and tiny and fluffy for long and will be cracking up in anticipation of what's to come.
If I Had a Raptor gets increasingly funny as the raptor grows to the size of a small horse and begins to exhibit cat behavior like sitting on top of what you are trying to read, annoying nocturnal behavior, kneading and fussy taste in food.
O'Connor includes some fantastic scenes where the raptor is caught mid-scratch, tearing up a piece of furniture and getting a claw-trim with a giant pair of cable cutters. My absolute favorite illustration is of Dinah frozen in a window as she sees birds on a tree branch outside. I can just hear the strange little clicking sound that my cats make at this moment coming of out the raptor's mouth. O'Connor ends If I Had a Raptor with some harmless stalking behavior - well, harmless when done by a house cat. Our narrator is sitting on the floor, playing with her toy dinos when it looks like she is about to be pounced on - but that handy little bell alerts her to Dinah's presence and she gets a big hug around the neck!
O'Connor is an established author of the Olympians series of graphic novels about the Greek gods and goddesses, and the illustrator of the superb new bridge chapter book series, Captain Awesome!. To this esteemed list, he can now add picture book author and illustrator!
Source: Review Copy