CM . . .
. Volume XVI Number 19. . . .January 22, 2010
The Fossil Hunters. (Orca Echoes).
Marilyn Helmer. Illustrated by Dermot Walshe.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2009.
62 pp., pbk., $6.95.
Grades 1-3 / Ages 6-8.
Review by Christine Torchia.
Topper jumped up. She sniffed at the fossil rock.
Then she licked it.
Kyle laughed. "Topper thinks your fossil rock is cool too," he said.
Marcus kept staring at Shelley's rock. I'll bet he wishes he had found it, she thought.
"It's lunchtime," said Uncle Ray. "This afternoon we're going to Applegate Farm."
"Yay! Shelley cheered. "I want to see the animals."
"I like the horses best," said Kyle.
"I like the pigs best," said Shelley.
"Yuck!" said Marcus. "Pigs stink."
"The babies don't," said Shelley. "They are my favourite."
Back at the cottage, Shelley showed Aunt Joan and her mom her fossil rock.
"You had better put it in a safe place," said mom.
"Good Idea," said Aunt Joan. "You wouldn't want to lose that one."
Shelley can't wait to spend her summer at Gray Rocks Lake with her family. She can't wait to see her aunt and uncle, but she is even more excited to see her cousin Kyle. They had so much fun last summer, swimming, hiking, paddle boating and more. Shelley is disappointed to discover Kyle isn't at the lake when she arrives but is pleased to learn he will be there that afternoon. While waiting for Kyle to return from visiting a friend, Shelley plays catch with Topper, her cousin's friendly brown dog. Toppers favourite rubber ball has turned lumpy and grey since last summer, but Topper loves it.
When Kyle arrives that afternoon, Shelley is thrilled to see him but begins to worry when he introduces her to his friend, Marcus. Marcus doesn't seem happy to meet Shelley, and, when he finds out she's only eight while he's 10, he tells her, "You're just a kid." Relieved when Marcus's mom tells Aunt Joan she can't stay long, Shelley is then discouraged to find out Marcus is not going home with his mom but staying the week.
Although Kyle tries to include everyone, Marcus makes it difficult for Shelley to like him, leaving her out of games, calling her a kid and constantly bragging about his fossil collection. Marcus even has to show Shelley that he can throw Topper's ball farther than she can throw it.
The next morning while waiting for the boys to finish breakfast, Shelley takes Topper out to play fetch. Topper can't find her ball anywhere, and Shelley helps her look for it. When the boys come out, Marcus offers to help look for the ball after they get back from Rocky Beach where they are heading to look for fossils. After finding only a few interesting rocks, Shelley sits down to rest. Something catches her eye, and she picks up a lumpy gray rock. She is excited to find out it has a fossil of corral in it. Marcus and Kyle are excited too. They search the spot Shelley found her rock but find nothing more.
Back at the cabin, Shelley excitedly shows her family the corral before finding a safe place to keep it in her favourite tote bag pocket. Every day, Shelley looks at her corral and places it back in the safe zippered pocket. Marcus tries to trade Shelley for the corral, but she wants to keep it as it's too special to give away. One day Shelley finds Marcus coming out of her room. She wonders if he was really in her room, but, when she looks around, nothing looks touched, and so Shelley continues to get her sweater for a walk with her dad and uncle.
When Shelley returns, the boys are looking at stuff through a magnifying glass. Kyle suggests they look at Shelley's fossil. Shelley is surprised to find the zipper on her tote bag open and even more surprised to find her fossil missing. She wonders if Marcus could have taken it: he had wanted to trade her for it, and he had been in her room that day. Marcus admits he looked at her rock that afternoon but says he put it back. Everyone searches for the fossil rock, but no one can find it. The next morning, Shelley's Aunt invites the kids to go berry picking. Kyle is going fishing with his dad, but Marcus is more excited to go pick berries. Shelley is sad because she would rather be looking for her fossil but can`t stay home alone. Before they leave, Shelley sits on her bed to read but is restless. Topper is restless too, and Shelley tells her if she had found her ball they could play fetch. Topper gets excited at hearing the word fetch and runs off to her doggie bed. Shelley follows Topper, thinking she must have found her ball. Excited for Topper, Shelley takes the lumpy gray object from Topper and is even more excited to find Topper had her fossil!
Shelley feels terrible for blaming Marcus for taking her fossil. She apologizes to him, but Marcus still looks upset and tells Shelley it's all his fault. Shelley doesn't understand why Marcus thinks it's his fault, and he reminds her that he was the one who threw Topper's ball too far the day she lost it.
After raspberry picking, Aunt Joan suggests they drive into town for ice cream. After they finish their ice cream, Shelley asks if her and Marcus can go to the Dollar Daze to spend the dollar they each got for picking berries. Shelley finds a beautiful necklace on for half price and goes to find what Marcus was looking for. Marcus has found the perfect ball for Topper, but he doesn't have enough money to buy it. Shelley says they can pool their money and have enough, but Marcus tells her they won't have enough for both the ball and the necklace. Shelley decides she doesn't need the necklace, and Marcus offers to help her make one back at the cabin. Together, they buy Topper a new ball.
Back at the cabin, Topper is thrilled to have her new ball. When Kyle returns, Shelly and Marcus show off the new ball for Topper and the necklace they made for Shelley.
This beginner chapter book is perfect for a young reader. There are a variety of emotions described in the book, making it a great teachable story. All of the characters are likeable and realistic. Many readers can put themselves in each character's place and think how they would have felt or reacted in the situation. I think this is a wonderful story for teaching about friendships and feelings.
Christine Torchia, an Early Childhood Educator / Educational Assistant and mother of two elementary school children, lives in Winnipeg, MB.
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