In the great era of dinosaur-hunting, two teenagers accompany their paleontologist fathers in a race to discover the biggest of them all: the rex.
A spirit of adventure permeates this fast-paced novel by the award-winning Oppel. Rachel Cartland is the rare 19th-century girl whose father allows her to pursue her interest in the natural sciences, at least until she marries. Samuel Bolt, with his knack for assembling fossilized bones, convinces his nearly penniless father to mount an expedition to head west and follow up on a lead from an amateur bone collector. On the train to Nebraska, they discover that the moneyed Cartlands are headed to the same place with identical intentions—and a crew of paleontology students from Yale and a U.S. Army escort. With their fathers embroiled in rivalry, Sam and Rachel are meant to spy on each other, which gives them a chance to become acquainted out of sight of others. Rich in period details and dialogue, the story shifts between Rachel’s and Sam’s alternating first-person voices. Rachel’s narrative reveals that she’s one of the few white characters with enough conscience to reflect on the savagery of the explorers’ treatment of the local Pawnee and Lakota Sioux.
Suspense, romance, and the excitement of discovery make this Western thoroughly enjoyable. (Historical fiction. 14-17)