Fossil enthusiasts have many options to choose from when looking for books on the pioneering fossil hunter Mary Anning. Some are of better quality than others, with the temptation to link her to true dinosaurs possibly one of the more common sins among them. The otherwise excellent Dinosaur Lady of course falls prey to this, and while the first Mary Anning book I featured here, Stone Girl, Bone Girl, at least managed to avoid making this mistake in the actual text of the story, it included illustrations that doubtless left that impression on many of its readers.
Thankfully Monica Kulling knows enough to avoid this common blunder with her junior novel Mary Anning’s Curiosity. The story details a period of Mary’s early life from her eigth birthday when she receives her first rock hammer, to the discovery of her most famous fossil, the original Ichthyosaurus.
Kulling writing is easy to read while still managing to convey the pathos of Mary’s struggles and triumphs. From the heartbreak of her father’s death, to the suspense of the Ichthyosaurus excavation, to the elation and vindication of revealing her discovery to the world, I always found myself very invested in the story, even though I am far above the target demographic for this book!
While not a picture book, lovely illustrations by Melissa Castrillón grace the cover and a few of the chapter breaks, which lends it a nice atmosphere. In fact, I first became aware of this book due to the gorgeous cover art, which I stumbled across after discovering Castrillón’s Instagram account one day. The interior illustrations evoke the best of classic children’s literature, while the cover almost has a simplified art nouveau quality to it.
Mary Anning’s Curiosity is sure to delight all fossil lovers young and old, and as the Coronavirus lockdowns are still in effect at the time of this writing, it has been a great companion while maintaining my social distancing! I think it ties with Dinosaur Lady for my favorite book about Mary Anning thus far.
If you also find yourself looking for extra books to escape into, I highly recommend Mary Anning’s Curiosity. It tells the story of Mary Anning’s early life in a way that manages to be both entertaining and true to life, without pandering to the target audience. I’m pleased to give Mary Anning’s Curiosity my enthusiastic Dino Dad Stomp of Approval!