Friday, January 31, 2020

Paleontology Girls!

I’m ending the month with a celebration of women in paleontology. The themes for today: fossils, women scientists, biographies

Fossil Huntress: Mary Leakey, Paleontologist
By Andi Diehn; illus. by Katie Mazeika
32 pages; ages 5-8
Nomad Press, 2019

When Mary Leakey was a little girl, she and her father liked to learn about the past.

Mary didn’t go to school like other kids. Instead, she read lots of books about things that interested her. Like fossils. She was passionate about fossils and became good at drawing them. When she grew older, she went to Africa and looked for fossils. She uncovered a skull that was about 16 million years old, and years later discovered fossilized footprints.

What I like about this book: It’s fun to read, and I like how curiosity drives Mary to study fossils and footprints. I also like that author, Andi Diehn explains what paleontologists do when they find fossils. They describe where they found it – landscape and features – and then measure and draw the fossils. And there is back matter! An activity, some quotes and connections to the text, a timeline, and a glossary. Plus, it’s part of a series that introduces women in science to young children.

Gutsy Girls Go for Science: Paleontologists: With Stem Projects for Kids
By Karen Bush Gibson; illus by Hui Li
112 pages; ages 8-12
Nomad Press, 2019

Life on earth began about 3.7 billion years ago – not that anyone was there to document it. So how do we know about prehistoric life?

Paleontologists. They’re the scientists who study fossils, from ferns to trilobites, dinosaurs to ancient humans. In this books we meet twelve-year-old Mary Anning who, in 1811, found a dinosaur in the cliffs near her home. We meet Mignon Talbot who studied crinoids – and I’m glad she did because our garden is filled with fossilized crinoid stems. She is also the first American woman to discover – and name – a dinosaur. Other paleontologists featured are Tilly Edinger, Zofia Kielan-Jaworowska, and Mary Leakey.

What I like: Before we head off to join the paleontologists, there’s a “field kit checklist” to remind us to take out safety glasses along with the rock hammer. There are plenty of text-boxes, along with short bios of other paleontologists not featured and hands-on “field assignments” at the end of each chapter.

You can read an interview with author Karen Bush Gibson that was posted earlier this week over at STEM Tuesday.

Beyond the Books:

Draw a fossil – or a shell, leaf, bone, or even a plastic dinosaur. Just like a paleontologist, your goal is to observe your find and capture its shape, colors, and textures on paper. Make sure to write down the date, and jot any notes and labels like a real paleontologist would do.

Make your own fossils out of salt dough. Use shells, plastic dinosaurs, or even leaves to make impressions. Once baked to hardness, paint and … voila! Your very own fossil museum. Instructions here and here.

Or if you’d rather, whip up a batch of cookie dough – you know, the kind you roll and cut into shapes – and press some “fossil imprints” into them.  Or make some fossil jewelry. Here’s directions for that.

If you were a dinosaur, what would your Dinosaur Name be? Find some dino books and choose your favorite names. Stuck? Then check out this cheat sheet from the Horniman Museum

Get digging! Head out into the field alongside paleontology experts, or find fossil camps for kids here.

Today we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. And you can check out more books on paleontology over at the STEM Tuesday blog – where this month’s theme was Dinosaurs. There’s a book list and more. Review copies provided by the publisher.


  1. Sue, what a great review. I love these two books together. Perfect tie in to STEMTuesday's Dinosaur month!

  2. Nice pairing! I wish that books like these had been around when I was a girl. I didn't even know what a paleontologist was until I had one as a TA for an earth science class in college.