The Picture Book Buzz

Dinosaur Lady - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

I have always loved wandering along beaches looking for shells, rocks and fossils. Additionally, I admire authors who can dig deep, shift through the remains of a life, and recreate an image of a remarkable person.


So, I was so excited when I discovered this amazing nonfiction biography, which combines both of these loves. It shares the curiosity, daring, and determination of a Victorian-era woman who refused to be pigeon-holed or ignored.

Dinosaur Lady: The Daring Discoveries of Mary Anning, the First Paleontologist


Author: Linda Skeers


Illustrator: Marta Álvarez Miguéns


Publisher: Sourcebooks Explore (2020)


Ages: 4-8


Nonfiction


Themes:

Fossils, dinosaurs, STEM, and daring woman.


Synopsis:

This is the story of a woman who dared to dig, explore, and discover. This is the story of Dinosaur Lady.


Mary Anning loved scouring the beach near her home in England for shells and fossils. She fearlessly climbed over crumbling cliffs and rocky peaks, searching for new specimens. One day, something caught Mary's eye.

Bones. Dinosaur Bones.


Mary's discoveries rocked the world of science and helped create a brand-new field of study: paleontology. But many people believed women couldn't be scientists, so Mary wasn't given the credit she deserved. Nevertheless, Mary kept looking and learning more, making discoveries that reshaped scientific beliefs about the natural world.


Dinosaur Lady is a beautiful and brilliant picture book that will enlighten children about the discovery of the dinosaurs and the importance of female scientists. It also includes a timeline of Mary Anning's life and lots of fantastic fossil facts!


Opening Lines:

Mary Anning dodged high tides and crashing waves to scour the beach

near her hometown of Lyme Regis, England. She filled her basket with

"curiosities" to sell to tourists, like seashells and fossils with fanciful local

names like "snake-stones" (ammonites), "devil toenails" (belemnites),

and "angel wings" (Petricola pholadiformis).


What I Loved about this book:

This wonderful biography details the challenges and remarkable discoveries of Mary Anning, the woman who found the first dinosaur bones and first complete Plesiosaurus skeleton. In addition to many other fossil discoveries.


As a means of making money for her family, Mary Anning searched the beaches near Lyme Regis, England for "curiosities" - fossilized swirled shells (ammonites), long, skinny tubes (belemnites), and large white clams - to sell to tourists. Driven by her curiosity and thirst for knowledge, Mary did what any scientist would do. She studied books and scientific papers, observed, detailed her discoveries with images and notes, and explored.

Text © Linda Skeers, 2020. Image © Marta Álvarez Miguéns, 2020.


I really enjoyed Marta Álvarez Miguéns' colorful, intricate, and stunning illustrations. It's fun how she tucked these fossil discoveries into the rocks,. Throughout, the illustrations are loaded with bits of nature, Victorian culture and clothing, and the scientific process.


Mary's studying pays off, when she and her brother discover a four-foot long, sharp toothed skull. Then, "when the men went back to work," she spent the next year looking for the body. I love how Marta's image hints at the enormity of the Ichthyosaurus - only it's flipper and a few ribs can fit into the image with Mary. The next page shows the full skeleton in relation to a crowd of visitors at the London Museum.

Text © Linda Skeers, 2020. Image © Marta Álvarez Miguéns, 2020.


As others discussed her discovery, Mary returned to "exploring. And learning." Over the next 18 years, Mary discovered a Plesiosaurus skeleton, dinosaur poop, dried ink in a belemnite fossil, a pterosaur, and an ancient relative of the shark and the ray.

Text © Linda Skeers, 2020. Image © Marta Álvarez Miguéns, 2020.


When I saw Marta's image of Mary leading male scientists over the cliffs, wearing a dress and fashionable shoes, I was reminded of the comment that "Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did - only backwards and in heels!" Although scientists and scholars regularly scoffed at Mary's discoveries and refused to admit her into the Geological Society of London, the Universities, or even allow her to attend classes, she was the person that geologists, scientists, and scholars consulted when they had questions. This brave, self-trained, dedicated woman was the fossil expert of her time. A true scientist, though she wouldn't be recognized as such for almost 200 years.


Craft Note: From the beginning, where Mary fearlessly scrambles over seaside cliffs and rocky peaks and teachers herself all that was known about fossils, to the final line, "[a]nd she did all that with a homemade hammer, a chisel, and a never-ending quest to fearlessly keep exploring and learning," Linda Skeers expertly weaves the threads of bravery, a thirst for discovery and knowledge, and persistence throughout the narrative of Mary Anning's biography. She masterfully included some facet of Mary's curiosity, fascination, and search for knowledge on almost every page. As well as repeatedly highlighting her bravery and determination, which ultimately helped create the field of paleontology.


The gorgeous illustrations and exciting narrative, extended by the awesome "bone bits & fossil facts," a timeline, and an in-depth author's note, make this a great bibliography about a daring woman and a fun look at the beginning of paleontology and Mary's role as "the greatest fossilist the world ever knew." A book that should be in every single library.


Resources: Guess what? National Fossil Day is October 14th.

- make your own dinosaur and other fossils (http://www.scholastic.com/magicschoolbus/games/experiments/fossilfun.htm)

- explore some fossils and where they came from (http://www.fossilsforkids.com/Now_and_Then.html)

- check out the fossil work and discoveries at the La Brea Tar Pits, Los Angeles (https://tarpits.org/learning-resource/behind-scenes-la-brea-tar-pits-museum)

- look at The American Museum of Natural History, Paleontology division- which has lots of cool dinosaur and fossil information (https://www.amnh.org/research/paleontology)

- download and do the Junior Paleontologist Activity Booklet from the National Parks Service (https://www.nps.gov/subjects/fossils/junior-paleontologist.htm)


This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

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