Review of The Bone Wars: The True Story of an Epic Battle to Find Dinosaur Fossils

The Bone Wars: The True Story of an Epic Battle to Find Dinosaur Fossils The Bone Wars: The True Story of an Epic Battle to Find Dinosaur Fossils
by Jane Kurtz; illus. by Alexander Vidal
Primary    Beach Lane/Simon    40 pp.
11/23    9781534493643    $18.99
e-book ed.  9781534493650    $10.99

Approximately one hundred fifty years ago, and sixty-five million years after the dinosaurs’ extinction, scientists discovered fossil treasure troves of bone beds in the western United States. Rather than combine their knowledge and discoveries, two well-known paleontologists, O. C. Marsh and Edward Cope, once friendly colleagues, vied for top billing in the scientific community. They infiltrated, sabotaged, and even destroyed one another’s dig sites. They furiously collected bones, identified new species, and published papers. And they both died lonely old men. Vidal’s earth-tone palette visually sets the scene for the numerous digs, while a gloomy gray dominates his compositions of the scientists away from these sites, where their distaste for each other plays out in public. He renders his digital dinosaurs and other creatures to reflect what nineteenth-century scientists knew about them, underscoring details from the text. Kurtz effectively creates the escalating tension between Marsh and Cope as she alternates each scientist’s action with the other’s reaction. In conclusion, she points out that the public was the true winner of this “war,” which produced new discoveries and museum exhibits of the hundred and thirty species the two collectively identified. Rounding out this clear and intriguing account are author and illustrator notes, a bibliography, and suggestions for further reading.

From the November/December 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Betty Carter
Betty Carter, an independent consultant, is professor emerita of children’s and young adult literature at Texas Woman’s University.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing.