10 million copies in print, 12 languages
1st Edition (1958)
I Can Read Ed. (1983)
**Several other printings and
editions, plus two sequels:
Spanish Ed. (1992)
“New” Ed. (1994)
50th Annv. Ed. (2008)
First published in 1958 by Harper & Brothers
64 pages with color illustrations
No dedication or introduction
Watercolor/ink illustrations on all pages, by the author
The book is very readable for children, with large pictures
taking up more than half of each page, and black standard
serif text on a white background at lower half of each page
Cloth spine binding with author name and title
• Transcription: Danny and the Dinosaur - Story and Pictures - by Syd Hoff
• Verso transcription:
No record of original manuscript
Hoff’s papers and illustrations are split among three collections:
• de Grummond Children's Literature Collection at University of
• Sydney Hoff Collection, University of Minnesota
• Syd Hoff Cartoons, Syracuse University Library
“It is a wonderful moment when a
child first finds a book he can read,
enjoying both words and pictures, and
not relying on an adult to decipher
the printed words.”
Back Cover Copy:
Some 50 editions
Still in print
More than 10 million copies sold
-Short animated film (1991)
-Educational computer game (1997)
Translated into a dozen languages
Part of the “I Can Read” series
-Happy Birthday, Danny and the Dinosaur
-Danny and the Dinosaur Go to Camp
Has remained very popular over the decades and has never been out of print
Biography of Syd Hoff
(HarperCollins author photo)
Syd Hoff was born Sydney Hoffberg,1 on September 4, 1912 in the Bronx and attended Morris High School until age 16. 2 In high
school, he had a formative experience during an assembly featuring Milt Gross, a notable cartoonist of the time. At the assembly, Hoff was
selected to animate a talk given by another student and drew so well that Gross proclaimed, “Kid, someday you’ll be a great cartoonist!” 3
After dropping out of high school and with the support of his older brother, Danny, the namesake of his most famous book, Hoff
began taking art classes in New York, including at the National Academy of Design. He quickly found success as a cartoonist, selling his first
work to the New Yorker at age 18.4 He enjoyed a lifelong relationship with the magazine, selling more than 500 cartoons to it over the
In 1937, he married Dora Berman, whom he had met as a teenager.5 In 1939, he began a 10-year publication run of his syndicated
newspaper comic strip, Tuffy. A year later he published his first children’s book, Muscles and Brains. However, he did not break through as an
author until 1958’s Danny and the Dinosaur, which to date has sold more than 10 million copies. The book was inspired by drawings that Hoff
created as a way to entertain his daughter, Susan, who was undergoing rehabilitation for a chronic hip problem. Critics have credited this
work as an early forerunner of the dinosaur craze that swept through American literature and film in later decades. 5 Hoff himself joked that
Steven Spielberg ought to pay Hoff royalties for helping inspire the blockbuster film Jurassic Park.
He, his wife and two daughters moved to Miami Beach, Florida in 1958, in part to aid in Susan’s recovery. From 1958 through 1977,
Hoff published another newspaper comic, Laugh It Off. He would go on to write and illustrate more than 60 children’s books, including
Sammy the Seal, Irving and Me, and two sequels to Danny. He also continued to submit editorial cartoons to a variety of magazines,
illustrated other authors’ books, created artwork for several national advertising campaigns, wrote fiction and nonfiction books for adults,
and hosted a television show on CBS focusing on his drawing and storytelling. 6
A common theme of much of Hoff’s editorial work was an appreciation for working-class people and neighborhoods. In fact, Hoff,
under the pen name A. Redfield, published numerous cartoons in the leftist magazines Daily Worker and New Masses, which often were
critical of upper classes. As Redfield, he also compiled a book of cartoons from The Daily Worker, titled The Ruling Clawss.7
Hoff, while well-known for his cheerful children’s books and gag-filled cartoons, often found inspiration in sadness. "Humor, for some
reason, is basically sad…The best humor has to do with events that people can identify as having happened to them, or something that has
been in the subconscious,” the New York Times credited him as writing.8 In later years, he enjoyed a comfortable life as a well-known author
who toured around the world discussing his writing and art, but was touched by sadness with the deaths of several family members, including
his wife, his beloved brother Danny, and Susan, the daughter who helped him conceive his most famous work, who died at age 45 in 1986.
Hoff died May 12, 2004 in Miami Beach at the age of 91. In honor of Hoff’s centennial, the American Library Association designated his home
in Miami as a Literary Landmark. 9
"Hoff, Syd." Third Book Of Junior Authors (1972): Biography Reference Bank (H.W.
Wilson). Web. 22 Mar. 2013.
sydhoff.org – Official website maintained by Hoff’s niece, Carol Carol Edmonston
Articles and tributes for Hoff’s centennial
Writings on Hoff’s work as A. Redfield
Mickenberg, Julia L.Nel, Philip,eds. Tales For Little Rebels: A Collection Of Radical Children's
Literature. New York : New York University Press, 2008. Print.
New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/17/arts/syd-hoff-91-who-illustrated-a-boy-s-rideon-a-dinosaur.html
Los Angeles Times http://articles.latimes.com/2004/may/17/local/me-hoff17
The Guardian (UK) http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/2004/jul/09/guardianobituaries
The Independent (UK) http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/syd-hoff-6169296.html
Danny and the Dinosaur was well-received upon its publication in 1958 and sold well,
or as Hoff later wrote, “the floodgates were open.”1 The New York Times cited the book
among its Outstanding Children's Books of 1958.2 Often praised for its simplistic, friendly
drawings and relatable, imaginative plot, the book has remains in print more than 50 years
later, having sold more than 10 million copies. As Kirkus Reviews noted, “Syd Hoff's cartoon
illustrations and his abbreviated text will make this dinosaur an especially favored pet with
As Hoff trained and began his career as a cartoonist, it is not surprising that this aspect
of his work is what drew in many of his young readers. Slotted into the “I Can Read” series
by its publisher, HarperCollins, the book was published as a stepping stone book for young
people just advanced enough to being reading books on their own. The book is a picture
book, with large, colorful illustrations on each page. Still, Hoff’s trademark humor peeks
into the story, giving it an indelible appeal.
As noted by critic Anastasia Suen, “Hoff’s humor comes through by making the events
funny and appealing…Hoff’s illustrations are classic Hoff: simple cartoons with a minimum
of background and details.”4
The book’s light 64 pages do not end in a triumph for Danny, the boy who brought to
life a dinosaur, as he and his prehistoric playmate part ways at the end of the story. Still the
book leaves the reader with a sense of jubilance and wonder about childhood adventure
and imagination, as Danny notes to himself, “But we did have a wonderful day.”
It is the combination of image and imagination that ultimately made this book
satisfying for its readers, with Language Arts saying of the book, "It is a great pleasure to
see what miracles can be wrought with simple words, imagination, and understanding of
Danny and the Dinosaur was an immediate hit with children’s literature critics and with young readers alike. Its popularity has held strongly
through the years, having sold more than 10 million copies and remaining in print through different editions throughout the decades. It also saw a
resurgence of interest at two different recent points, in 2008 when a heralded 50 th anniversary edition of the book was released, and in 2012, when
author Syd Hoff would have celebrated his 100th birthday, an occasion for which numerous celebrations, library exhibits and commemorations of his
work were held.
In reviews of the original work and of subsequent editions, critics often find value and enjoyment in the book’s simple plot, which features
such relatable yet intensely pleasurable activities as visiting a museum, playing hide and seek, and enjoying ice cream, with the soaring imaginative
addition of a dinosaur who has come to life to join in the fun. Some later critics noted that Hoff may have inspired the large interest in dinosaurs in
both children’s and popular culture in later decades of the 20th century.
Still, more readers, I believe, are drawn into the text by the author’s bright, simplistic and ultimately engaging illustrations. The cover page for
the original and almost all subsequent editions features a large, smiling dinosaur glancing toward the reader with friendly eyes as a young, blond boy
hangs off his neck and waves toward us invitingly. Similar illustrations are shown throughout the story, as the characters enjoy walking through city
streets, visiting a zoo, watching a baseball game, partaking in a game of hide and seek, and interacting with neighborhood children. Each of these
drawings is effective in placing the reader inside the action of the story, relating motion and sentiment through movement lines and characters’
expressions. In addition, Hoff places touchstones familiar to children in many of the drawings—cars, newspapers, bridges, stoplights, police officers,
etc.—clearly placing the fantastic events of the plot in a context understandable to children.
From a moralistic critical perspective, the book holds up well. Though few critics have found strong didactic themes to the story, a few plot
points tend toward teaching. The boy and the dinosaur are shown obeying traffic signals, offering to transport those waiting to cross the street and
leaving the zoo at the request of the zookeeper so that the other animals will not be forgotten by other visitors. Also, the children of the
neighborhood play well together, and even band together to pretend they cannot find the mammoth creature during a game of hide and seek when
he has sought shade behind a sorely inadequate light pole.
Some modern critics have taken issue with Hoff’s portrayal of “Indians” and “Eskimos” that Danny sees before encountering the dinosaur at
the museum. In Hoff’s simple rendering, this text is accompanied by what appear to be full-sized bodies of an stereotypical Native American male and
Inuit male standing on podiums for passersby to see. Such imagery now often is considered to be insensitive to those populations. Still, the text and
pictures have remained unchanged throughout newer editions.
Despite this instance, the magic of Hoff’s work is the clear interplay between text and image. The simple text on each page is mirrored by the
cartoonish drawing that accompanies it. When the text says the characters ate ice cream, the reader sees them eating ice cream, from a truck on
whose side is written “Ice Cream.” When the text says the two watched a ball game, we see them, towering above the walls of the stadium, enjoying
the ball game. When during the game of hide and seek, the text says the dinosaur hid behind a house, we see him, vainly trying to conceal his massive
frame behind what is clearly a home typical of the neighborhood. While such mirroring of text and image would be common for early reader books
such as this, it is the singular quality of Hoff’s illustrations that makes the book irresistible. The original medium Hoff used to create the artwork—
bright watercolors with distinct black ink outlines, renders the images at once accessible and fantastic for the young reader.
It is this series of interplays with which succeeds to the fullest—between text and image, between the everyday and the fantastic, between the
colorful and the black-and-white, between the day of play and the evening’s return to normalcy. They combine to leave us with a sense of both joy
and longing for fulfillment that only imagination can bring.
2. Buell, Ellen Lewis. "A Few New Books for All the New Readers.” New York Times.
October 5, 1958.
3. "DANNY AND THE DINOSAUR." Kirkus Reviews. Pub Date: Sept. 20, 1958. AccWeb.
20 Mar. 2013. https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/syd-hoff-3/dannyand-the-dinosaur/
4. Suen, Anastasia. "15 Classic Easy Readers." Book Links 15.6 (2006): 56. Biography
Reference Bank (H.W. Wilson). Web. 23 Mar. 2013.
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