Crisis looms when young Sybilla Peale learns that big brother Rembrandt is taking a beloved fossil for a tour of England.
Sybilla is accustomed to living among the wildlife exhibits (“They are very well behaved. They’re stuffed”) that fill the natural history museum set up in their home by Rembrandt and their father, Charles Willson Peale. She is understandably infuriated at the news that the “magnificent!” fossil skeleton beneath which she holds her doll tea parties will be leaving. Her rebellion melts away, though, when Rembrandt actually bows to her wishes. “Even if he is bossy, he is my brother,” she reflects, and rather than force him to leave the mastodon behind she lets the bones themselves decide. Marinoni illustrates this fictional episode in the life of the multitalented Peales with painterly views of a small, blonde spark plug confidently at home amid her all-white clan, exactly rendered early-American art and furnishings…not to mention all sorts of birds, insects, fossils, and other specimens. The scale of the mastodon skeleton relative to Sybilla is jaw-dropping, emphasized in image after image. Occasional outbreaks of elegantly set italics add an appropriately antique flavor to Sybilla’s narrative, and the author adds a pair of well-chosen period illustrations to an admiring explanatory afterword.
Accomplished illustrations further elevate this engaging introduction to America’s first family of science. (Picture book. 7-9)