What the Dinosaurs Did Last Night


By Refe Tuma

By Susan Tuma

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$10.49 CAD

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From the creative parents who brought the world the web sensation “Dinovember” comes photographic proof of what toys get up to when the rest of the house is asleep.

You might have noticed weird things happening in your house. Unexplainable messes. Food all over the kitchen floor. Who could the culprits be? Dinosaurs! Boasting bright and hilarious photographs, along with a story written from the point of view of an older, wiser sibling, Refe and Susan Tuma’s picture book documents a very messy adventure that shows just what the dinosaurs did last night.


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Every November night our house is vandalized by a gang of plastic dinosaurs. It happens while the family sleeps. Dishes are shattered, food is spoiled, and walls are defaced by tiny case-molded claws. Nothing is safe. Our kids wake up each morning and burst into our room, exclaiming, "Come see what the dinosaurs did last night!" They pull Susan and me out of bed and drag us to the latest dinosaur scene. "Take a picture!" they say, knowing that, without evidence, no one would believe us.

For years our growing family lived peacefully, if a bit uneventfully, in a small house in suburban Kansas City. I worked a series of jobs that paid decent wages and provided varied levels of personal fulfillment. Susan worked, too, but after the birth of our second child, she transitioned into life as a full-time stay-at-home mom. As part of this new role, she took on creative endeavors wherever she could find them: oversized cardboard boxes became castles and pirate ships, rolls of tinfoil became robot antennae and shining armor. I would come home from work and transform into Blackbeard the pirate or a creature from outer space. Adeia and Alethea, then ages five and four, lived part-time in a makeshift fantasy world.

Part-time. Because, of course, there was "real life," too, and real life never wants for challenges. Raising two kids was hard work. Susan and I frequently felt outmatched and ill-equipped. We got stressed, we fought; sometimes we simply didn't have the energy to play.

Our son, Leif, was born in 2011. We loved him from the moment we laid eyes on him, and our adoration for that fiery little redhead only grew each day. But there were complications. He had health problems that, while far from life-threatening, meant sleep became an increasingly rare commodity. For his first two years, he woke up in pain three, often four times each night. We spent hours walking with him, singing to him, telling him stories. Susan and I had to learn to function on an average of four hours of sleep. Our days were spent in doctors' offices and on the phone with specialists. Parenting is always an around-the-clock job, but as the days and nights blurred together during those first years with Leif, we wondered if the clock was even working.

Sleeplessness quickly began to take its toll. Susan and I forgot things, misplaced keys and cell phones, and burned dinners. We lacked the patience to solve simple problems for our girls when they didn't want to share a toy or couldn't agree on a cartoon. We awoke most mornings more exhausted than when we went to bed the night before. It wasn't long before our two oldest noticed. Cardboard castles and spaceships were replaced with TV shows and iPad games, day trips to the zoo with day after day inside the house. It was hard to get down on our kids' level to play when we felt like we might not be able to get ourselves back up again. We needed a way to reconnect.

Toward the end of the summer of 2012 Susan's parents sent a truckful of hand-me-downs they were getting rid of in preparation for a move. We made off with a good haul: a few pieces of furniture, a grill, and several boxes of toys. Most of the toys belonged to Susan's younger sisters and were dolls and dress-up clothes that quickly disappeared into our daughters' room. But there was a single box from Susan's brother. It was full of superhero action figures, Star Wars toys, and a few plastic dinosaurs. The dinosaurs had seen better days. Their paint had been scratched away by countless adventures, and their plastic joints showed signs of cracking. More than one of the dinosaurs' tails had worn down to a nub at the tip. The girls didn't show much interest in their uncle's hand-me-downs, so we tossed them into an old toy box, already home to some Ninja Turtles and a few other dinosaurs from our own childhoods. We set the box aside, figuring we'd save it for our son when he was old enough. For months, the toy box was rarely opened.

The next time we saw those dinosaurs was on Halloween. It had been a difficult day. Leif's sleepless nights had gotten worse. Trick-or-treating had been canceled because Adeia was sick, and the kids had gone to bed disappointed and emotional. Susan and I were exhausted, cleaning up after another day spent cooped up inside the house. We could tell our daughters had been desperately bored because even the neglected contents of that toy box had been dumped all over the living room floor. Susan started sorting through them as she cleaned, and held up a couple of the dinosaur figures.

"I remember these," she said. "I always loved them."

As we got ready for bed, Susan set the dinosaurs on the bathroom sink where our daughters would find them the next morning. I asked what she was doing and she shrugged.

"Just having a little fun."

We went to bed without giving it another thought.

The next morning, our daughters nearly broke down the door to our room.

"Mom and Dad, you have to see this!" Alethea said. "The dinosaurs came to life last night—we caught them brushing their teeth!"


On Sale
Oct 2, 2018
Page Count
24 pages
LB Kids

Refe Tuma

About the Author

Refe and Susan Tuma began photographing their dinosaurs’ adventures in 2012, creating Dinovember—the month when plastic dinosaurs come to life—and igniting the imagination of children young and old across the word. They live in Kansas City, Missouri, with their four children, Boris the dog, and, of course, the dinosaurs. They are the authors of the bestselling and award-winning What the Dinosaurs Did picture-book series. For more information and fun activities, they invite you to visit them online at dinovember.com.

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