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Friday, May 23, 2014

The Family Book Club reads about Mary Anning, the dinosaur hunter

by Susan Chapek

May 21, 1799 was the birth date of Mary Anning, daughter of a sea-coast carpenter who became famous for discovering (and studying) Jurassic fossils in the cliffs around her home town of Lyme Regis, England. 

Factual and fictional accounts of Anning's life and work have been targeted to all ages of readers, and are readily found in libraries. What if you gathered a selection of books--one or more suitable for each member of the family--and planned a family activity evening around Mary Anning and her fossils? 

Family Book Club meetings can include read-alouds, discussions, research, learning to sing or play appropriate music, related craft activities--even a special meal or snack (to celebrate Mary Anning, I suggest tea and rock buns).  

Here's a read-aloud version of her adventures that will delight the youngest dinosaur fans:

Stone Girl Bone Girl, 
The Story of Mary Anning
Laurence Anholt (Illustrations by Sheila Moxley)
Scholastic, 1999

Or choose these slightly more challenging picture books:

The Fossil Girl
Catherine Brighton
Frances Lincoln Children's Books, 2007

Mary Anning and the Sea Dragon
Jeannine Atkins (Illustrations by Michael Dooling)
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999

Questions are sure to come up! You'll find answers in this bio for adults:

Jurassic Mary 
(Mary Anning and the Primeval Monsters)
Patricia Pierce
The History Press, 2006

Or you and your middle-grade children may prefer to read and discuss this "lighter" bio:  

Curious Bones: Mary Anning and the Birth of Paleontology
Thomas W. Goodhue
Morgan Reynolds, 2002

Meanwhile, parents can enjoy this version of Mary Anning's adventures, as imagined by the author of Girl With a Pearl Earring:

Remarkable Creatures (A Novel) 
Tracy Chevalier
Dutton, 2010

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  1. What a fabulous idea to have a family book club studying Mary Anning! Thank you for including my and Michael Dooning's book on your list. Though I wrote it some time ago, Mary Anning remains a huge inspiration for me.

  2. My newest obsession is discovering read-aloud and early-reader bios of fascinating "unknowns," and I note that you have written a whole batch of them! Your list could inspire a whole series of science-themed Family Book Club meetings.