22 March 2013
By LINDA MORRIS
Robert Irwin can’t yet boast a clothing range, the Bindi doll, a television series or starring movie roles. But around the dinner table of the family compound at Australia Zoo, on Queensland s Sunshine Coast, the young son of Steve Irwin can lay claim to a boys-own adventure book series.
His blonde bob framing a face that recalls his father’s features, Robert Irwin has been cast as a child dinosaur hunter who stumbles upon a magic fossil that pitches him back to the age of the dinosaur.
"Since I was only three or four I’ve loved dinosaurs and I’ve always loved going to museums and learning more about more unusual dinosaurs, and I think the new books are so good because I can teach kids about some cool dinosaurs," he gushes, naming Austrczlovencztor as his favourite.
"It’s an Australian dinosaur. It’s actually an awesome dinosaur ... it can run fast and it has big, big claws for killing its prey."
From Dinosaur Hunter 1: The Discovery, the reader learns that Robert isn’t "your normal nine-year-old", having started writing to paleontologists before his first letter to Santa.
If "Crikey!" was his dad’s signature exclamation, then "awesome" is Robert’s.
"I remember him from real life, not just from scenes on TV" says Robert, who was two when his father died.
The associate publisher of children’s books for Random House, Chris Kunz, said the publisher had been in talks with the Irwins about a series for Robert for some time.
"There are many reasons we think this series stands out from the crowd. For one, the books do not talk down to readers. They are fictional books that include a lot of factual info about Australian dinosaurs, which a lot of people are unaware of, as well as dinosaurs found elsewhere in the world.
"In each book there is a field guide at the back so kids can jump into an exciting imaginative adventure but also learn a lot along the way. What also differentiates this series from others for the same readership is that there is a real boy at the centre of the narrative. He’s a charismatic kid and his enthusiasm is completely addictive."
Terri Irwin, who features in the series as the loving mother who admonishes Robert for acts of public mischief, defends the public profile of her children. "I’m very protective with both Bindi and Robert," she said.
"As recently as last weekend there were opportunities for Bindi for filming that I turned down because the weekend is for her to hang out with her friends, and go to movies, to climb mountains and have fun. I’m very careful that Bindi and Robert aren’t getting too much of the workforce when there is school, fun and being a kid."