Stone Girl, Bone Girl

Laurence Anholt, Author, Sheila Moxley, Illustrator Scholastic $15.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-531-30148-7
Anholt's cumbersome and text-laden story centers on the early years of Mary Anning, born in 1799 and known in her native England for her discovery of ancient fossils. From the moment that her beloved father, nicknamed ""Pepper"" for his ""speckled beard,"" extracts a ""snakestone"" (a fossil of a snake) from the clay cliffs near their seaside home, Mary spends her days searching alone for similar ""curiosities,"" while peers taunt her with the titular nickname. Soon after her father dies, Mary discovers a dog (with a coat like ""speckled pepper"") near his grave. Encouraged by the Philpot sisters, local scientists, the mournful girl continues to collect fossils and searches for the giant sea monster's bones, which, legend has it, lay hidden in the cliffs. Her devoted pet leads his young mistress to the skeleton of this ichthyosaur, then vanishes. As with the death of Mary's father, the text glosses over the dog's disappearance, but readers will likely see it as a shadow cast over the discovery and marking another significant loss in young Mary's life. Moxley's (Skip Across the Ocean) vividly hued, primitivist artwork features some creatively skewed perspectives as well as several potentially disturbing images: a farmhouse teeters on the edge of eroding cliffs, while nearby are half-submerged cows and a person apparently gesturing in distress. Anholt convincingly lays the groundwork for Anning to go on to become a noted scientist and local hero, but youngsters will likely find this account of her childhood sad rather than celebratory. Ages 5-9. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
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