Stone Girl Bone Girl (Review)
Updated: Nov 21, 2020
Author: Laurence Anholt
Illustrator: Sheila Moxley
Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children's Books, 2006 (first published, 1999)
Interest Age: 5 - 8
Reading Level: 4th Grade, Lexile 760
Retail: $8.99, paperback
Summary: The story of Mary Anning, a poor girl from Lyme Regis born 1799, who learned about prehistoric curiosities (fossils) from her father, and who went on to make important discoveries in the field of paleontology.
Dozens of people have reviewed this book, and as an archaeologist (NOT a paleontologist), I don't know if there are any scientific errors. However, I do love this book, and I have been reading it to my children for years. When my youngest was in kindergarten, I embarked on a quest to find biographical read-alouds for his age level, and this title was the first one I found at the library. At the time, my son was starting to reject stories about icky girls, but since this book deals with prehistoric animals, he was cautiously receptive.
The story is very engaging, and Laurence Anholt's writing flows easily off the tongue. My favorite line is, "Ragged clouds dragged at a lemon-slice moon." Illustrator Sheila Moxley is particularly talented communicating mood with her colorful illustrations, and her signature style of depicting faces is well suited to the somewhat somber tone of the book. The motif of geological layers is used throughout, even in sidebars. She takes liberties with perspective and incorporates whimsy into the spreads (the cows falling off the collapsing cliff are particularly amusing). The result is an educational book that doesn't feel educational.
Some of the details about Mary Anning's life are embellished or over simplified. However, this book really works to generate interest and excitement about scientific discovery. Older children may wish to do additional research about Anning's full biography, and online sources abound. As a woman, her research did not receive the recognition it deserved during her lifetime. I am sure she would be surprised to know how many young children she inspires today.
When it comes to getting young children interested in science, I feel that narrative and stories are the way to go. Biography can be a dull genre for children if it isn't done right. This book is a great example of creative non-fiction in picture books, and I consider it to be a work of art. Recommended!