Illustrations – Sarah Horne
I blame myself for
needing wanting to read every book with ‘dinosaur’ in the title. Not being familiar with this series it took me a little while to realise that our main character Ann lived in the 1800’s. It took me until the end of the book to find out that it’s set in 1870. Ann’s story is told in diary form and is inspired by the life of Mary Anning who, along with her brother, found the first complete Ichthyosaur skeleton in 1811.
Ann finds fish lizard bones and her father, who’s essentially a snake oil salesman, sells them to tourists as a “cure” for whatever he deems wrong with them. His scams and tactless sales pitch tends to get him into trouble and Ann appears to take on somewhat of a parental role, trying to keep him out of trouble and entertained.
One day a surgeon who collects fossils encounters her father’s stall, realises the scientific importance of her discovery and after some setbacks Ann and her father wind up visiting the New World (America) on an expedition to hunt dinosaurs. Despite the old men at the Geological Society dismissing her due to her age and gender Ann is determined to become a great scientist.
I never really connected with Ann’s character although the story did grow on me over time. I found the writing to be very matter of fact and mostly a series of “I did this”, “I went there” and “That happened”. Ann’s continual references to believing she was cursed each time something went wrong irritated me after a while. Perhaps it just wasn’t my type of humour but there was only one part that I found smirk worthy and based on the blurb I’d expected ‘hilarity’.
I still don’t know how Ann qualifies as the “World’s Worst Dinosaur Hunter” as she seemed pretty great at it, so much so that even though she is uneducated, unqualified and a girl (shock, horror!) she is the first to discover several dinosaur species.
I did like the ‘Get Real’ facts scattered throughout the book, my favourite of which involved William Buckland who “attempted to eat his way through the entire animal kingdom, and is known to have served his guests mice on toast and roasted hedgehog.” Ew!!
The sections at the end of the book where I learned about Mary Anning’s life and some other notable dinosaur hunters were interesting. Also included are a timeline and glossary.
Thank you to NetGalley and Jolly Fish Press, an imprint of North Star Editions, for the opportunity to read this book.
Once Upon a Blurb
Meet Ann – a smart but unlucky teenager keeping a diary of her life as she hunts for dinosaur bones. When she gets an opportunity to search for fossils in the American West, Ann is determined to turn her luck around and show the world her discoveries.
The hilarious Long-Lost Secret Diary series put readers inside the heads of unlucky people in unfortunate situations. The accessible, irreverent stories will keep young readers laughing as they learn the importance of not being afraid to learn from one’s mistakes. Get Real fact boxes featured throughout, as well as a glossary and additional back matter, provide historical context and background.