This new biography of Mary Anning is perfectly pitched for the Middle Grade market, a dramatic retelling of the life story of an extraordinary girl fighting to become a scientist in an age where the social mores were against her.
The opening line of the prologue sets the tone:
“Tisn’t everybody gets struck by lightning and lives to tell the tale.”
From this moment the reader is enraptured by the engaging narrator (the story is written as a first person narrative) and her tale of battling against her poverty stricken, lower class background to prove her sparky intelligence.
This version of Mary Anning’s life gives young readers an excellent insight into the life of a poor, female member of the lower classes and the way in which she contributed a great deal to science but received no acknowledgment for her discoveries during her lifetime. The author captures the disappointment and frustration that her place in society denies Mary the chance to join the new scientific societies that were being established. It also touches on the friction between the scientific discoveries and the religious authorities, as evidence emerged that living creatures had evolved rather than been created in their current forms. The pencil illustrations by James Weston Lewis fit perfectly with the description of the drawings made of Mary’s “curiosities” by her friend Henry De la Beche.
A great book to inspire children aged 9+ to be determined in the face of difficulties and to understand the scientific upheavals taking place during the nineteenth century.