Recent Reviews of "How To Train With a T. Rex"

First book sighting
First book sighting at Barnes & Noble, June 6th, 2009.

Seen at Powell's
Saw it at Powell's about a week and a half later.

The book's been out for over a month now, so to pass the time, I've gathered a few reviews of the book. There's not many, but I'm hoping that'll change throughout the course of the summer. I was told that Michael Phelps himself will do a PR run (morning and late shows, etc.), but that hasn't happened yet. Looks like the summer is a busy time for the Olympian with all those swimming competitions. Each time I check to see what the guy's doing, he's always in some city swimming in some 'nationals', or breaking world records, or something. But hey, the guy's gotta do what he's gotta do!

UPDATE: Just found out that Michael will appear on Tonight Show with Conan O'Brian, this Tuesday, the 14th to talk about the book! Warm up the TiVo!

Here are a couple of reviews, for the curious:

Publisher's Weekly:
"Swimming champ Phelps provides a playful account of what his preparation for the Beijing Olympics entailed. The text jumps from one analogy to the next, beginning with the six years he trained: “That's a kindergartener's whole life! That's the same as 42 dog years!” Some comparisons wow more than others, as when Phelps equates the 12,480 miles he swam while training to swimming the full length of the Great Wall of China three times (“Perfect! Now do it two more times,” says his coach in the accompanying illustration, which shows the Great Wall as a pool that zigzags across mountains into the distance). Humorous but less compelling spreads demonstrate the time he spent napping during these training years. Many of the comparisons are downright silly, including the one that inspires the book's title, in which Phelps tallies the number of dinosaurs he could hypothetically leg-press in a single workout (nine tons worth). Debut illustrator Jenkins's digital cartoons comically mine this and other quirky references, depicting Phelps as a cheerful, larger-than-life caricature. Sports fans with a love of statistics should be both amused and impressed. Ages 4–8. (June)"

Pretty happy with this review from Publishers Weekly. A big time site on everything about the publishing industry. Quite an honor to get a decent mention! I, of course, bolded that part about me. Sorry. I like that they mention the Bob Bowman gag. That was not part of the text—it was something that I added into the book myself. Nice!

Barnes & Noble: Kirkus Reviews:
"The titular T. Rex only puts in a cameo but readers will still be wowed as super-swimmer Phelps recaps the six-year regimen that put him in shape to win a record eight Golds at the last Summer Olympics. He livens his recitation of laps and reps considerably with comparisons-"I trained for six years! That's a kindergartener's whole life! That's the same as 42 dog years!"-and after swimming 17 races in nine days to reach the finals won the 100-Meter Butterfly by 1/100th of a second: "about the length of a fingernail." In blocky digital paintings Jenkins stacks up pizza boxes, whole sports teams, Washington Monuments and herds of dinosaurs to back up the claims about distances run, calories consumed and weights lifted, and closes with a view of the athlete lounging on a sofa, holding a bowl of broccoli and thinking up new goals. (Perhaps appropriately for the audience but possibly compromising the book's timeliness, the athlete's suspension for smoking pot goes without mention.) Motivational and self-aggrandizing, like most of its ilk, but not too heavy-handed with the Message. (Informational picture book. 6-9)"

Okay, this one baffled me. Why ON EARTH would we even mention the suspension??? First of all, the book was done at least a month before The Photo was leaked to the press. Secondly, it's a KID'S BOOK. It's ludicrous to think that something of that nature would even be mentioned in a children's book! Third...well, there's no third. That's all I got, but it's enough to go on. No more explaining needs to be done, don't you think? I know that the reviewer was probably trying to make a joke, but still. The last line is nice, though. Have to give 'em credit for that.

Booklist Online:
"Gold medalist Phelps takes readers through the regimen he kept for six years that eventually led him to eight gold-medal victories at the 2008 Summer Olympics. Digitally rendered cartoon-style artwork depicts Phelps going through his training activities juxtaposed with the representations of comparable activities and measurements. This puts his activities into terms that young children can understand: six years equals a kindergartner’s whole life; his daily three-hour nap equals three whole summer vacations; and so forth. The title and the cover, showing Phelps working out with a dinosaur, are misleading, as the T. rex is only mentioned as a comparison to show the strength of Phelps’ legs: “I could leg-press a Tyrannosaurus Rex and 10 velociraptors!” This will not win any medals, but it is deserving of an audience. Share with children who enjoy How Much Is a Million? by David M. Schwartz (1985), or Mount Olympus Basketball, by Kevin O’Malley (2003)." — Randall Enos

Baltimore Sun's Kevin Van Valkenburg has the best one I think so far:
8 gold medals not child's play, but Phelps' tome for tots is.

The entire review is a little long, so here are some excerpts:

"I wanted to make a bunch of jokes about a cartoon version of Phelps telling a cartoon Ms. California that everyone deserves the right to get married, and reminding kids that cell phone cameras will be confiscated every time he and his cartoon posse walk into a room.

But the truth is - and maybe this is the result of having a kid of my own on the way - I kind of liked it. There isn't exactly a narrative there, and the inclusion of a Tyrannosaurus Rex makes very little sense, even in the illogical world of children's books. But it has a nice message and some cool illustrations by Ward Jenkins."


One of the things I've noticed is that the first thing most people do when they see the book is make fun of it. I mean, c'mon—it's a joke waiting to happen. (Even Conan mentioned the book in his monologue!) But then they end up liking it because of the message and (hopefully) the artwork. Interestingly enough, Kevin's review goes on to talk about Michael's dedication to children & fans. Because he's from Baltimore, the reviewer has a chance to see this first-hand:

"All that said, Phelps does genuinely care about kids. I've seen him sign autographs for junior swimmers at meets for more than an hour, even though he was exhausted from a day of competition. And at Meadowbrook Aquatic Center in Mount Washington, he is famous for his patience with kids who want to take his picture or tug on his sleeve and ask for an autograph. So while I'm a natural cynic, I'm also inclined to believe there are sincere motives behind this book."


I'm behind on a lot of things right now. Namely, my site. I need to update it to include a page solely devoted to How To Train With a T. Rex And Win 8 Gold Medals. Also thinking I need a mention of the book on the intro page, as well. Also thinking that I need to basically redesign & tweak the entire site while I'm at it. Ah, details. They'll be the end of me, I'm sure.

More photos from the first sighting:
Me with that book
Hey it's me with that book.

On the wall
It was wild to see it up there on the wall with all these other books. Wild, I tell ya!

Checking out the book
Showing Ava the dedication page. Aww.

Look! The book!
My eyes hurted after this.

If you haven't bought the book yet, then what are you waiting for? Support your favorite blogger! I'll be solely dedicated to you from here on out, I promise.

I'm currently gathering sketches and drawings together and will post some behind-the-scenes stuff on the making of the book. How does that sound? Actually, before I do that, I'll probably be featured on a children's book illustrator blog coming up. I'll keep you posted.


  1. Yeah, why WOULD the book mention the suspension?? I feel like that reviewer just HAD to squeeze that in there somewhere.

    Again, Mon Congrats.

  2. saw it on the shelf here in san antonio at the indi bookshop "the twig" last friday.... almost bought it but then thought I must have it signed... seriously... will you offer some signed copies for sale on your etsy site...? e-mail me if you put one up and i'll buy it asap!


  3. Hey Ward- while getting my car's oil changed yesterday, I was reading Sports Illustrated and the book was featured in a small article about what to do, it was under read. Unfortunately no mention of the art...but still a positive review of the book.

  4. CC- Thanks, man! I did it all for you.

    Burgin- I'm trying to figure out a way to do this. I'm thinking that if you'll send me a copy of the book, I'll sign it, draw a little sumpthin', and then mail it back to you. How's that sound? Not sure if I can do it via Etsy.

    Matterhorn- which issue? I'll check it out. Many thanks!

  5. I don't remember, I think June 23rd or something like that.

  6. Congratulations, Ward!

    I'll be sure to grab a copy.

  7. Stumbled across your book at our local library... the illustrations caught my eye... Discovered your blog as I was writing a review on my blog.

    Love that you included your kids' names in the illustrations (Ava's Pizza / Ezra's Broccoli Farm).

    Well done! Consider us your newest fans! :)