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How Ruth Mason Discovered Fossils in Her Own Backyard

by Julia Lyon ; illustrated by Alexandra Bye

Pub Date: Oct. 12th, 2021
ISBN: 978-1-5344-7464-2
Publisher: McElderry

“Ruth Mason was forever curious about her own backyard.”

In 1905, near her family’s log home in South Dakota, a 7-year-old White girl named Ruth Mason found her first dinosaur bone. Accessible text bubbles with enthusiasm and provides a straightforward narrative while colorful illustrations show the bright-eyed, full-bodied heroine who continues to search for and find bones on the prairie, undeterred by the lack of interest of those around her. Unlike those of her English parallel, Mary Anning, Ruth Mason’s discoveries went unrecognized; despite the numerous letters she wrote to various institutions, no one came to investigate until a dinosaur hunter visited her ranch while Mason was in her 80s and drew attention to what she’d found. Multiple digs followed, and now many specimens are featured in museum collections, including one in Wales known simply as “Ruth.” The endnotes explain the difficulties of finding information and obtaining an education during this period but do not mention the additional challenge of being a girl interested in science, which would have further highlighted her uniqueness. Still, this is an inspiring tale of resilience and dedication, a paean to the art of performing a task for its own sake, and a most interesting addition to the world of dinosaur hunting. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

An intriguing look into the early 20th century that features a strong female hero and—most importantly—dinosaurs.

(further reading) (Picture book/biography. 5-8)