CM . . .
. Volume XI Number 6 . . . .November 12, 2004
When two young boys, Daniel Helm and friend Mark Turner, discovered dinosaur footprints near Tumbler Ridge in Northeastern British Columbia in the summer of 2000, they could not have imagined the ongoing adventures and scientific discoveries awaiting them.
The following summer, palaeontologist Rich McCrea, a dinosaur footprint expert, visited the trackway with the boys, identified the prints as those of an ankylosaur, and enlisted the nine-year-old's aid in taking scientific measurements and photographs. McCrea's subsequent discovery of a dinosaur bone [see excerpt] produced opportunities for the budding paleontologists to learn about "pedestaling" a bone and its safe removal inside a jacket of plaster. Soon the boys and their friends were using McCrea's dinosaur footprint finding tips to discover footprints from a variety of dinosaurs, including one footprint bearing an impression of the creature's skin.
The next summer, McCrea returned and helped the local explorers make an important discovery: the first ever dinosaur skeleton in British Columbia. At ninety-three million years of age, the dinosaur was the oldest found in Canada, some twenty million years older than the well-known discoveries in Alberta's Badlands. The excitement of this discovery drew world-famous palaeontologist Philip Currie to the Tumbler Ridge site.
Charles Helm, Daniel's father, recreates this true story spanning a three-year period with professional quality photographs appropriately placed on virtually every page and a well-paced narrative. The text successfully conveys the a sense of the immediacy of the discoveries while also introducing information about dinosaurs and the tools, such as geological maps, used by paleontologists. Side panels explain scientific aspects about hunting for and identifying dinosaur footprints. Unfortunately, the illustrator's renderings of various types of dinosaurs are disappointing when compared with the photographs.
Helm concludes the book with a two-page description of the three groups of dinosaurs whose footprints have been identified in the vicinity of Tumbler Ridge: theropods, ornithopods, and ankylosaurs. This is followed by a three-page overview of dinosaur discoveries in Northeastern British Columbia, including a postscript about excavations carried out at the site in 2003, and the birth of the Tumbler Ridge Museum, complete with dinosaur exhibits. A map of Alberta and British Columbia helps the reader to situate Tumbler Ridge relative to several major cities in these provinces.
The true nature of the story, together with bright photographs and the widespread interest in the subject matter will make this a popular book with young children, and perhaps those who are not so young. Helm has done a remarkable job in bringing this exciting tale to a deservedly larger audience than that provided by the newsprint and television media of British Columbia.
Val Ken Lem is a catalogue librarian at Ryerson University in Toronto, ON.
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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.