The Bone Wars: The True Story of an Epic Battle to Find Dinosaur Fossils

S. & S./Beach Lane. Nov. 2023. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781534493643.
Gr 3-6–Kurtz details the bitter rivalry that developed between two 19th-century scientists and fossil hunters. O.C. Marsh and Edward Cope were originally colleagues and friends, but when Marsh caught a mistake made by Cope, the two engaged in a furious competition to find fossils and promote their latest discoveries. They hired teams of workers who were sent west to explore newly discovered fossil beds. They paid their workers to spy on each other’s camps and even encouraged them to fill in dig sites and mix findings to throw off their rivals. This carefully neutral account reads like a fable as the two engage in ultimately self-destructive highjinks. Both died alone. Marsh’s students referred to him as the “great dismal swamp” behind his back. Cope’s wife reportedly left him after finding one too many snakes among her shoes. Kurtz notes that their efforts added to the scientific record, though it also took years to correct mistakes made in haste. Other scientists built upon their findings to make more accurate discoveries. Vidal’s cartoony digital illustrations add action and humor, along with factual details. Appendices include a list of sources and suggestions for further reading.
VERDICT This lively, well-crafted book will delight dinosaur lovers. Educators will also appreciate its insight on the eventful early days of fossil hunting.

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