Tommysaurus Rex by Doug TenNapel (2004)

TommyRex1Cover blurb

From the creator of Creature Tech comes a story about a boy and his T-rex. Ely is an everyboy trying to cope with the loss of his dog Tommy. When he finds a live, 40-foot Tyrannosaurus Rex trapped in a cave behind his grandfather’s house, Ely embarks on an adventure to tame this seemingly friendly giant, convince the town his new pet isn’t a threat and keep his dinosaur safe from the jealous town bully. Ely discovers what it takes to be a man… and what it costs.

My thoughts

Who knew a story about a boy and his T. rex could be touching?

Yes, touching.

Tommysaurus Rex is a graphic novel about a young boy, Ely, who goes to spend the summer with his grandfather after his dog gets hit by a car. While fleeing a bully, Ely finds a cave with a living T. rex inside it. The dinosaur doesn’t gobble him up, or else this would be a different story. Instead, it behaves like his dead pet dog, Tommy, playing fetch and chasing cats. Soon the whole town knows about the dinosaur and it becomes a media celebrity. But as often the case, good times rarely last forever.

TenNapel weaves a sad-but-ultimately-uplifting tale in Tommysaurus Rex, which shows a surprising amount of sophistication for what is essentially a retelling of countless Disney tearjerkers, substituting a dinosaur for a dog. Granted, TenNapel’s vision of childhood is a little too Lassie and he overdoes it on the poop jokes, but the story has a good sense of humor and it is beautifully illustrated with cartoonish, black-and-white panels. What really raises it above most stories of its kind is the sympathetic portrayal of the bully – in fact, I would argue that Tommysaurus Rex is his story, although he is not the main character. The other characters are a bit stereotypical, but they’re likable.

The graphic novel weighs in at only a little more than 100 pages, so you’ll be able to finish it in under an hour. Also, it’s a good gift for kids, particularly if you want to introduce them to comics. Just make sure to keep a box of tissues handy.


  • Ain’t It Cool News reported back in 2004 that Universal Pictures has acquired the rights to turn Tommysaurus Rex into a feature film. I haven’t heard any news since concerning the status of the film.


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