CM . . .
. Volume XI Number 3 . . . . October 1, 2004
In Dinosaur Hunters, educator Lisa Murphy-Lamb draws upon historical facts and adds fictionalized details to produce captivating stories about a handful of pioneer dinosaur hunters active in Canada and one modern Canadian paleontologist, Philip Currie.
George Dawson and Joseph B. Tyrrell both overcame serious childhood illnesses and became incredibly productive surveyors, prospectors and explorers in the Canadian West. Dawson's discovery of hadrosaurian dinosaur bones in southern Saskatchewan in 1874 is recognized as a Canadian first. Ten years later, Tyrrell uncovered a large deposit of fossilized dinosaur bones near the future site of Drumheller, Alberta, while working for the Geological Survey of Canada.
In keeping with the series theme, "Amazing Stories," Murphy-Lamb weaves interesting anecdotes into the text to enliven the brief biographies. She also delivers excellent historical facts and vocabulary-enriching descriptions of geological formations and the working methods and conditions. Particularly noteworthy is her description of measuring distances in paces: With a compass in one hand and a canvas bag on his side, [Joseph B. Tyrrell] embarked on daily, evenly paced walks. He had to record every 100 set of paces that he walked. To keep track, he placed a new stick in his pocket after every set of 100 steps. At the end of several hours, he counted the number of sticks in his trousers, wrote down how many sets of 100 he had walked, and started again.
Although sub-titled "Uncovering the Hidden Remains of Canada's Ancient Giants," it would have been more correct to substitute North America for Canada since the author devotes a chapter to the Sternberg family's important work as dinosaur hunters in the United States. Two subsequent chapters detail the Sternberg's work for the federal government in southern Alberta during the 1910s, a period described as The Great Canadian Dinosaur Rush.
Murphy-Lamb provides glimpses into the intense rivalry between noted American paleontologists Edward Cope and Othneil Marsh, and later between the Sternbergs and Phineas T. Barnum. The theme of rivalry continues in the final chapter, with a friendlier tone, as American Jack Horner and Philip Currie and his Canadian colleagues successfully search for fossil eggs and embryos in Montana and southern Alberta during the late 1990s.
Seven black and white photographs are scattered throughout the book at appropriate places. Most are portraits, often set in the field. There is a two-page photo of the dinosaurs on display at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller. A map of southern Alberta and Saskatchewan identifies places named in the book. Also included are a chart of the geological time scale, an appendix of Dinosaur Data containing facts about fourteen dinosaurs found in Canada, and a brief bibliography that will guide enthusiastic readers to delve more deeply into the history and lives of the people profiled in this book. There is no index.
Given the subject matter and the accessible prose, Dinosaur Hunters will make for excellent recreational/supplemental reading.
Val Ken Lem, a catalogue librarian at Ryerson University, Toronto, was a dinosaur fanatic in his elementary school years.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.