GENRE: Middle Grade Fiction,YA
Two young dinosaurs from opposite sides of the floodplain bump into each other by chance. He’s a small meat-eater, and she’s a big plant-eater. They’ve got no parents, no food, no friends. They’re supposed to be enemies, but they decide to stick together instead. It’s not easy. When she gets caught with him, she ends up banished from her herd. He faces a huge rival who could stomp him out with one back foot. They have to outsmart a gang of bullies with sharp teeth and long, curved claws. And they struggle to survive the natural disasters of drought, mudslides and a bubbling tar pit. Worst of all, when they lose contact with each other, they fear betrayal. What if their friendship has been broken?
His hard work had tired him out, so he sat down in the nest. He was about to fall asleep when he felt the island tremble slightly. It was enough to cause one of the other eggs to slip toward him. He put his mouth around the egg’s pointed end, making sure the sharp tips of his teeth didn’t break through the shell. Then he gently settled it back in the damp ground at his feet. But why was his nest moving like that?
Using his tail for balance, he eased up and peeked over the top of the nest. A rush of cold air hit him in the face just as cawing broke out in the trees overhead. Flocks of birds darted from branch to branch, making loud warning calls. And the ground started to shake so much that he struggled to stay standing.
At the edge of the island, a group of animals leapt out of the shallows. At first, he thought that they were like the birds above him, except they looked too big to be able to fly. Besides, they moved by running with their heads stuck out in front of them. Instead of wings, they had long arms and hands with three fingers—and they had claws.
They were just like him.
The pack swarmed past. A reddish-brown one at the end skidded to a stop. He towered over the nest, and slobber dribbled from his small pointed teeth. “Hey, little Troödon!” he called out, but when he got no reaction, he shook his head in frustration. “I’m talkin’ to YOU!” he said with a growl. “You see any other Troödons alive in that ring of dirt?” The dinosaur glanced nervously over his shoulder. “You’re gonna have to move fast, kid,” he shouted, then he turned to flee.
“Mudslide comin’ through!”
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Paula Louise Salvador has had great adventures as a documentary film maker and writer. The scariest was when she stood under the ribs of a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton – in the dark! The most fun was filming dinosaur dig-sites from a helicopter. On the dangerous side, she had to dodge alligators in Mississippi – and keep all fingers and toes out of the water.
Paula has met fascinating people, particularly jazz legend Oscar Peterson and composer Philip Glass, who performed in her show on electronic music.
In “BUILD GREEN” for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s “THE NATURE OF THINGS”, Paula and Dr. David Suzuki visited rock star Randy Bachman’s super sustainable house. (He played his guitar for us.)
Finally, it was a tiny dinosaur that captured Paula’s heart. For her documentary “DINOSAUR BABIES The North American Story”, Paula held the fossilized egg of a little Troödon. He was curled up inside, just about to hatch. (His leg bones looked like a chicken’s.) That’s where Paula’s story of Trygg begins.
Paula has a Masters in French Literature from l’Université de Provence, France and a Bachelor of Arts (including Children’s Literature) from McGill University, Canada.
CONNECT WITH PAULA
BARNES & NOBLE
Inspiration for the book’s characters
All the animal characters in TRYGG THE DINOSAUR are based on real ancient creatures that lived about 76 million years ago in what is now Northern Montana and Southern Alberta. I had the enormous privilege of filming their fossils as the director of DINOSAUR BABIES: THE NORTH AMERICAN STORY, a science documentary that is available for download here: https://www.amazon.com/DINOSAUR-BABIES-North-American-Story/dp/B0041TX8WS/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Dinosaur+Babies+the+North+American+story&qid=1630352284&s=instant-video&sr=1-1
I first “met” TRYGG, the little meat-eating TROÖDON dinosaur, when the scientist put its fossil in my hand. The Troödon was inside its egg (we could see the bumpy eggshell), all curled up and about to hatch, that is until a mudslide buried the whole nest. I’ve never forgotten that little guy, but how could I turn him into a character that kids would love?
My inspiration came from an emu, a big two-legged bird similar to an ostrich. If you can imagine an emu with a long tail, long arms and clawed hands, then you are getting close to a Troödon.
For our documentary, we filmed a real little emu as it pecked its way out of its egg. We were all silently rooting for him, and when his little head finally broke through the top of the shell, I almost started to cry. Then he “found the strength to pull himself up. His legs wobbled a bit, then they settled, and he stood for the very first time.” Such strength, such determination. (Just like Trygg in CHAPTER ONE.)
ALTA THE HYPACROSAUR is a very different character. She’s a four-footed plant-eater, and she’s about five times the size of Trygg when they meet. They are both orphans, but they are from opposite sides of the floodplain, so to speak. Perhaps they are a younger version of star-crossed Romeo and Juliet.
‘Trygg!’ (Alta) cried… ‘We can’t be seen together.’
Trygg stretched his head as high as he could then glared at her. “What do you mean?”
She stomped her good back foot. ‘Don’t you understand? You are the enemy. We’re supposed to hate each other. We eat plants. You eat meat. In fact, you eat us! We cannot be friends—ever. It is not allowed.’…
‘Yeah,’ said Trygg in a quiet voice. ‘But what if we wanted to be, you know, friends—the two of us? That’d mean something’, right?’
‘Not to them,’ she said. ‘That’s worse. That would make us suspects.’
Just like Romeo and Juliet.
A young Alphadon is the only mammal character in the book. She was similar to our modern-day opossum which is about the size of a cat and carries its babies in a pouch like a kangaroo. In Trygg’s world, the mammal would have been prime prey, but the little Troödon can’t bring himself to eat her. And she turns out to be the one who helps him overcome his fear of water. Just like my childhood friend Jerry (a human mammal) did for his dog.
I was raised in rural Ontario on the northern shores of Lake Erie. One winter, when we were about twelve, Jerry took Sabre, his German Shepard, down to the lake to play on the ice flows. I wasn’t with them, but apparently the chunk of ice they were on started floating out of the bay into deep water. The dog was very scared, and he balked at jumping off the ice flow into the cold water. Refusing to abandon him, Jerry leapt in, then pulled Sabre in beside him. They both swam to shore together and ran fast up the bank, trying not to freeze in the cold air. That’s what friends are for.
And that’s what the little Alphadon does for Trygg when she jumps into the river that has to be crossed for them to reach safety. Except that it is Trygg who is afraid of the water.
‘All right,’ said (the Alphadon). ‘I’ll just have to get over on my own.’ In a flash, she ran across the beach and threw herself into the river. The water swirled over her head.
Trygg jumped into action. ‘Wait a minute!’ he called out as he rushed to the shore. ‘Don’t be dumb!’ He plucked the mammal from the river…
With a sigh, he placed the mammal on his back. ‘Okay,’ he said in a tone that sounded much braver than he felt. ‘Here we go!’ Then he held his breath closed his eyes and plunged into the river. The cold made him shiver.
I think that Jerry and Sabre would have been proud of Trygg.
In Chapter Twenty-Two, a big turtle escapes from a group of huge Albertosaurs (earlier tyrannosaur meat-eaters similar to T. rex). He then ends up crawling over Alta’s tail as she sleeps.
“A large flat-shelled turtle who was as wide as Alta shuffled out from between her feet. ‘Sorry about scaring you,’ he said in a hoarse whisper…
She saw the long, narrow scratches that ran the whole length of his shell. ‘Oh my, you were lucky to get away.’
‘That’s for sure.’…
The turtle set off across the sand then called back to Alta, ‘I’d get out of here if I were you.’”
I love turtles and tortoises. They’ve been around for about 150 million years, so they’ve obviously figured out how to survive.
When I first saw the fossil of the big turtle that lived at the same time and place as “Alta and Trygg”, I knew that he’d make a great character. Luckily, I happen to know several tortoises personally.
One day, at our world-renowned zoo, we took our then ten-year-old granddaughter to visit the Giant Tortoise that was outside in a pen, running like a pro. Our granddaughter, on the other side of the barrier, started running beside him. She was going full-steam, and could barely keep up with the two-foot wide, four-legged turtle. That’s why I feel confident that the ancient land tortoise that warns Alta ‘I’d get out of here if I were you.’ certainly knew how to make a fast get-away.