Every now and then comes a book that is so well-thought-out, so rich with imagery and description that when it ends, it feels like you have just ended the most wonderful vacation ever. This is not one of those books! While it has all the elements of a racy, espionage-type adventure, with every opportunity for a ten-year-old to discover his inner superhero and kill him some bad guys, The Pterodactyl’s Egg is written with all the finesse of a preteen essay competition entry.
As it implies, it is all about a young boy, Sam, who finds a strange-looking egg in his school playground, takes it home and discovers that it is a ready-to-hatch pterodactyl egg. As the pterodactyl (predictably) grows into a much-loved pet, there is the formidable Dr. Pox, a power-hungry scientist, to add drama and throw water over this potential Lassie Come- Home scenario (about a dog’s trek over many miles to be reunited with the boy she loves). She dispatches the fighting machine BENO to track the absconding dinosaur down and bring it back to her research facility.
While there’s nothing wrong with the plot and its excitement value, or with the style, which is easy to read, it’s the treatment of the tale that leads one to drink (a child-friendly intoxicant)! Besant rushes through everything, never pausing to explain or give a background. Her characters are interesting but are never given a chance to develop or even introduce themselves properly. She is unable to ‘show’ as opposed to tell, and hence her action scenes, which should and could sizzle, end up sounding amateurish.
Reading the book feels like you are reading tutorial notes on the real book – you get the gist but not the skin prickles. It is a book that could well appeal to children, but one would have to read it out to them, embellishing scenes, adding some voices and so on, because the author’s own falls flat. Unfortunately, even the more charming bits of the story, like the night on the beach that Sam and his sister Priya spend with the pterodactyl, give the impression of being something that one has read in a book or watched in a movie before, and fail to evoke any sense of wonder.
Recommended only if you enjoy feeling like you’ve been left hanging.
By Itisha Peerbhoy
THE PTERODACTYL’S EGG
Author: Annie Besant
Illustrator: Vishnu M. Nair
Subject Category: Contemporary/Fiction