The children's nonfiction book The Dinosaur Lady: The Daring Discoveries of Mary Anning, the First Paleontologist by Linda Skeers makes a correction in the historical record giving credit to a woman for her discoveries which led to the identification of the first dinosaur. Until recently little was known about this woman, who while living in Lyme Regis on the English coast in the early 1800s, discovered, while she was searching for fossils, a full skeleton of a creature eventually named Ichthyosaurus, "fish lizard." It was ultimately determined to be an extinct creature and became the first know dinosaur. She continued discovering aspect of fossils which led to paleontology as a scientific specialty.
Last year in my role as a Cybils Award judge one of my favorite books, The First Dinosaur: How Science Solved the Greatest Mystery, also dealt with the Mary Anning and other early paleontologists and their discoveries. During her time on earth Mary Anning got very little credit for what she discovered and for her contributions to science. She was not allowed to join the Geological Society of London. Everyone was talking about her discoveries but they weren't talking about her.
Thank goodness for children's books like The Dinosaur Lady: The Daring Discoveries of Mary Anning, the First Paleontologist so that young girls know that they, too, can make great discoveries and contributions to science today.
What I liked about the book:
- The illustrations, done by Marta Alvarez Miguens, are engaging and fun. Children reading this book will know where Mary was when she made her discovery of the first known dinosaur and where she sat to work as she investigated the mysteries of paleontology.
- There is an illustrated and helpful timeline for her life. It includes authors notes and a short bibliography.
What I didn't like about the book:
- Unfortunately it didn't pass the Ian test. My dear three-year-old grandson lost interest mid-book and actually got up and walked away while I was reading it to him. The publisher says it is for children aged 4-8 years, so perhaps he is just too young for this topic. That said, I liked the book a lot and if I were a children's librarian I would certainly put this book into my read aloud circulation.