Review of Dragon Bones: The Fantastic Fossil Discoveries of Mary Anning

Dragon Bones: The Fantastic Fossil Discoveries of Mary Anning
by Sarah Glenn Marsh; illus. by Maris Wicks
Primary    Roaring Brook    48 pp.    g
11/21    978-1-250-14021-0    $19.99

Mary Anning (1799–1847) loved “treasure hunting” with her father and brother along the storm-pounded cliffs of their seaside English hometown, Lyme Regis. The treasures were fossilized shell and bone “curios” they’d sell to tourists. After their father died, her brother discovered what he thought was a giant crocodile head, but it was Mary, at just thirteen, who painstakingly uncovered the entire body. The skeleton (which she thought looked like a dragon) made newspaper headlines before being sold and displayed in a museum and named an “ichthyosaur” (fish lizard). During her lifetime, self-taught Anning discovered five additional extinct creatures, including two species of plesiosaurs. Though she rarely received proper credit at the time, today she is considered the “mother of paleontology.” Marsh’s mainly upbeat, child-centered text is complemented by Wicks’s (Primates, rev. 5/13; Astronauts, rev. 5/20) comic illustration style. Bold pencil outlines and vibrant, digitally colored hues almost pop off the page. Wicks incorporates a few graphic-novel staples — dynamic character expressions, sound effects, and speech bubbles — to add playful touches to the story. Also noteworthy are the recurring luminescent drawings outlined in white that denote Anning’s imaginings, whether of extinct creatures she hopes to (or does) discover or of her deceased father watching over her. Back matter includes more details about Anning’s life, quick facts about “Mary’s dragons” (also creatively featured on the endpapers), information on “How to Become a Paleontologist,” and a selected bibliography.

From the January/February 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Cynthia K. Ritter
Cynthia K. Ritter

Cynthia K. Ritter is managing editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She earned a master's degree in children's literature from Simmons University. She served on the 2019 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award committee.

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