cover image Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs: Lost in the Tunnel of Time

Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs: Lost in the Tunnel of Time

Sharon M. Draper. Writers & Readers Publishing, $6 (96pp) ISBN 978-0-940975-63-7

An inaugural release in the Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs series, this tale focuses on four African American boys who make up the Black Dinosaurs Club. On a class field trip to the Ohio River, the friends are captivated by two stories. A raconteur describes his grandfather's arrival in Cincinnati via the Underground Railroad and also explains that tunnels used in that operation are located under the school the kids attend. And their teacher relates a local legend about a Shawnee woman who helped slaves escape to freedom and whose ghost allegedly haunts the area. When Ziggy and pals attempt to explore the underground tunnels, the walls collapse. The trapped boys are comforted by a breeze they attribute to the ghost's presence. Draper's (Tears of a Tiger) well-meaning attempts to combine fiction, folklore and history lead to some significant credibility gaps, among them the unlikely circumstances that middle class African American middle-schoolers have never heard of the Underground Railroad; and that Ziggy's dog manages to dig through the collapsed tunnel to rescue them. The result is a contrived, disappointingly meager novel. Ages 8-up. (Mar.)