This fourth mystery book in the "New Sugar Creek Gang" series by Pauline Hutchens Wilson and Sandy Dengler is published by Moody Publishers.
The Case of the Dinosaur in the Desert is written for kids ages 8 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Lynn Wing enters a dinosaur-drawing contest and wins first place. The prize is the opportunity to participate in an actual archaeological dig in Arizona. Lynn invites the rest of the Sugar Creek Gang to join her. When they arrive at the dig site, an unpleasant paleontologist named Dr. Alex Royer eventually greets them. She does not like having young people on her dig site and alternates between ignoring them and accusing them of stealing things, such as fossils. At one point, the Sugar Creek Gang is told to leave, and another kinder paleontologist, Brian, helps them get permission to return. From that time forward, the kids determine to be kind to Dr. Royer, following Jesus' example, regardless of how mean she is to them. Eventually, one of the Sugar Creek Gang members, Les, finds the real thief, a neighboring ranch owner, and Dr. Royer and Les get the culprit to admit his guilt. In the end, the gang realizes that they have learned important lessons about following God through their willingness to show God's love to Dr. Royer.
This book is written from a Christian worldview. The kids talk about specific Bible verses with their parents, and Les' father discusses prayer with him. Members of the Sugar Creek Gang, also, pray. Through doing the things that the Bible tells them to do, the kids start to understand how they please Jesus when they obey His Word. The book emphasizes the importance of not just reading God's Word, but also applying it to everyday situations. When a poisonous snake almost attacks Les, he realizes that God divinely protected him. Les explains to Brian, a kind paleontologist, that a Christian is a person who trusts Jesus and wants to please Him.
The Sugar Creek Gang believes their parents are in authority over them, and they honor and obey them. Despite poor treatment by the adults in charge at the dig site, they try to be respectful. Dr. Royer uses her position to treat the Sugar Creek Gang poorly, and Brian uses his position to protect the kids. Les' father comforts him with biblical principles and Bible verses, and all the gang's parents try to do what is best for their children
Other Belief Systems
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- Who wins the dinosaur-drawing contest?
With whom does Lynn want to share her prize?
What does Lynn do when she realizes the whole gang can't go on the dig with her?
How difficult is this decision for her?
What would you do in her place?
- Why is Les disappointed once he arrives at the archeological dig?
What are some things that are difficult for Les there?
What is one thing that you expected to be amazing, but it wasn't?
What did your disappointment cause you to do?
How did Les adjust to his new surroundings?
- What excuse does Les give for eavesdropping?
Why is eavesdropping inappropriate behavior?
What should Les have done instead of listening?
- How does Les feel after he hears the false accusations against the Sugar Creek Gang?
How do he and the gang choose to treat Dr. Royer?
What compels them to treat her well, even as she is treating them poorly?
How does doing this change Dr. Royer?
- How does Les' treatment of Dr. Royer eventually impact Brian?
How does Brian change?
What does the Sugar Creek Gang find in God's Word that helps them to do what is right?
What do people notice about these kids?
Of all the things you do, which of them please God?
How might this behavior help others change, too?
Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.