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Janet Lawler '74 imagines what Christmas with dinosaurs would be like

Here comes Tyrannoclaus, here comes Tyrannoclaus, right down Tyrannoclaus Lane …

No, those aren’t the usual lyrics you’ll hear playing as you do your holiday shopping this month. But they’d fit perfectly in the latest story by Janet Lawler ’74.

Tyrannoclaus, Lawler’s fourth children’s book, imagines what Christmas was like in prehistoric times.

“I hope children will read this and take away some of the magic of the holiday season,” said Lawler, whose book was described as a “unique holiday treat” by the School Library Journal.

As the title character and his helpers make and wrap gifts for the dinosaur children, things get very complicated when a volcano erupts near their workshop. Watch a sneak peak on YouTube.

As a mother of two to Andy and Cami, Lawler said that the story was inspired by her son, now 21, and his cousin, Barry Stevens, now 24, who were obsessed with dinosaurs as children.

“They loved dinosaurs from the time they could roar,” Lawler said.

According to Terry Stevens, Barry’s mother and Lawler’s sister-in-law, dinosaurs were the only thing the boys read about, talked about and played with for five years.

“Our world revolved around dinosaurs,” said Stevens. She and Lawler were dragged into dinosaur land as they followed their boys’ favorite creatures.

Tyrannoclaus, a featured selection of the Children’s Book of the Month Club, plays off of Clement Clarke Moore’s classic poem, The Night Before Christmas, but it wasn’t Lawler’s first try at reimagining the famous story. As an undergraduate student, she wrote a special version for Connecticut College:

’Twas the night before finals, when all through the dorm,
They were turning the heat up to keep their toes warm.
The towels were all hung in the closets to dry,
As the hour grew late and the minutes ticked by.
The notebooks were open and strewn on the floor,
And all nervously thought of the cramming in store...

As evidenced by her early work, Lawler loves to rhyme. Susan Aller, a fellow children’s author who joins Lawler weekly at their writing group, Wednesday Writers, said that Lawler consistently works hard to get the right word or phrase in place.

“She really agonizes over the scanning of the poetry,” Aller said. “She is meticulous, creative and determined.”

Interestingly, Lawler wasn’t always an author. After graduating from Connecticut College with a degree in American studies and government, she earned her law degree and practiced for several years.

“Connecticut College encourages students to be creative learners and thinkers,” Lawler said. “The experience really enhanced all the paths I’ve taken in life and opened me up to the possibility of having multiple careers.”

Lawler, who was first published in 2003, realized her ultimate passion – writing – when she began to look for work that could offer more time at home with her kids in Farmington, Conn. “You have a lot more flexibility as an author,” she said.

Lawler continues to be inspired by her children – whether it’s Tyrannoclaus or A Mother’s Song, a story inspired by her daughter. It’s coming out this spring.

In the meantime, you’re probably wondering if Tyrannoclaus will deliver all the presents to the dinosaur boys and girls on time. Well, you’ll have to read the book to find out.

-Rachel Harrington

December 2, 2009