Like daughter, like mother.

Like daughter, like mother.

Little Eirann Grace McClatchy used to imagine what it would be like if the dinosaur she invited to her birthday party actually came.

Mom Lisa McClatchy has written a children's book, "Dear Tyrannosaurus Rex," in which that's exactly what happens.

Needless to say, wackiness ensues and many, many pizzas are tossed into the eager, smiling mouth of the friendly dinosaur.

"She loved dinosaurs," Clintonville resident McClatchy said of Eirann, who is now 8 years old and attends Indian Springs Elementary School. "She would write these pretend letters to tyrannosaurus rex and mail them. She would invite him to parties.

"I'd never heard of anyone doing that and I thought it was just adorable."

McClatchy, who grew up in Worthington and attended the College of Wooster, probably more easily recognized the children's book potential of her daughter's whimsical imagination than most. She moved to New York City after college and worked for several years in children's publishing. She met husband Kevin in NYC and the couple moved to Columbus a few years after Eirann was born.

Lisa McClatchy's stint in the world of children's publishing was primarily in the area of marketing. She still does some freelance author-appearance coordination for Random House, Little Brown and Co. and Disney, arranging visits to schools and libraries. McClatchy has done some writing for an existing series of children's titles.

"This book is the first original," she said.

And Eirann, whose name is simplified to Erin in "Dear Tyrannosaurus Rex," was mom's inspiration.

"For some reason, she hitched on to dinosaurs, and we have just a huge bucket of every kind of dinosaur," McClatchy said. "I think she two years in a row dressed as tyrannosaurus rex for Halloween."

The letter-writing to the imaginary dinosaur, which mom encouraged, took place when Eirann was 3 and 4 years old, mom recalled.

McClatchy started writing the book, which has as one of its dedications "For Eirann, T. Rex's original pen pal," in the summer of 2007. She sold it to Random House and the publishing firm matched the book with Pittsburgh resident John Manders, the illustrator of more than 30 children's titles, including "Dirt Boy" by Erik John Slangerup and "Clarence the Copy Cat" by Patricia Lakin.

From her previous experience in the field of children's publishing, McClatchy was aware authors have no say over the artists who will illustrate their books. Therefore it was with some trepidation that she consigned her work to the publishing house for assignment to an illustrator.

"I was very pleased with the art," McClatchy said. "I think they really found an illustrator who matched the spirit and the fun of the story."

The artwork shows, among other things, a cheerful "thunder lizard" arriving at Erin's house for the birthday party, only to be intimidated by the family dog Violet.

"Don't let Violet scare you!" Erin tells him. "She just has a really big bark!"

Later, the king of dinosaurs is seen playing hide and seek by lifting up an entire storage shed and jumping on a trampoline, bouncing the other partygoers out.

"If you come to my party," Erin writes in her invitation, "I'll be the happiest girl in the world."

"I, of course, showed it to her," Lisa McClatchy said of Eirann, 5 at the time.

The little girl agreed, mom said, with the approach being taken.

McClatchy believes "Dear Tyrannosaurus Rex" could be followed up by other titles in a whole series.

"I really hope so," she said. "I clearly would love to do more books along the same vein. I think the possibilities are endless.

"If it catches on, which I hope it does, I can see some follow-ups in the future."

"Dear Tyrannosaurus Rex" is available for purchase at Cover to Cover bookstore in Clintonville, as well as over amazon.com and randomhouse.com.