Sticks ‘n Stones ‘n Dinosaur Bones
by Ted Enik and G. F. Newland
I received an email a few weeks ago from Ted Enik after he saw Dimetrodon is Not a Dinosaur and felt compelled to write to me. You may not be familiar with Ted’s name but you would certainly recognize his children’s book illustrations; the most famous character he’s put to color and line is none other than Ms. Frizzle. On the list of people who have most inspired me in my life I’d have to say Ms. Frizzle and her Magic School Bus sit pretty near the top for the positive impact those stories had on my budding imagination, so when Ted asked if I’d review his latest book (one he authored with illustrations by the talented G. F. Newland), of course I agreed. This isn’t a paid endorsement but he did send me a copy of the book. And no, I’m not going to make a habit of using my blogs to write book reviews; this is a special case.
I spend quite a bit of time complaining on this blog about dinosaur (and #notadinosaur)-themed books, toys, and other miscellaneous merchandise for its lack of educational value. I’m happy to say that this is not such a book. On the contrary, it’s a silly retelling of a very serious and lifelong rivalry between two early paleontologists: Edward Drinker Cope of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, and Othniel Charles Marsh of the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale. These two early paleontologists quickly became caught up in a competition to find the most, biggest, and best dinosaur fossils - a race that was known as The Bone Wars, or the Great Dinosaur Rush, between the 1870’s and 1890’s.
Enik manages to capture the ridiculousness of this situation with well-paced rhymes, and Newland’s illustrations are fanciful but evocative of the late 19th century, with artistic whimsy included. It’s definitely the type of book that would be a great gateway for young enthusiasts of historical nonfiction.
My only criticism goes to the end of the book where the authors list some of the more magnificent discoveries of the two paleontologists (rivalry aside, they were immensely accomplished). I learned there that Dimetrodon was one of Cope’s discoveries, but the book refers to it as a mammal-like reptile.. a detail I was quick to point out to Ted, but I really don’t blame him because it’s not common understanding that the phrase is outdated. So, it’s a forgivable misconception. Plus, he didn’t have a paleomammalogist as an editor, so.
I’ve never written a book review before so it’s all to say that I really enjoyed this one, and it would have been absolutely be the sort of thing I’d read as a kid - or to my kids, if I had any. Maybe I’ll just take it to a park and read it to some random children. That might be weird. But it’d be worth it, because this book rules.
Sticks n’ Stones n’ Dinosaur Bones receives a 9/10 superstar rating as Emily Graslie’s humble personal opinion. If you’d like to see some sample pages, watch a book trailer, or order a copy, be sure to check out their site! Unhinged History.
EDIT: Just heard from Ted. He fixed the “mammal-like reptile” phrase. Review upgraded to 10/10, would read again (and again).