THE BONE WARS
The True Story of an Epic Battle to Find Dinosaur Fossils
By: Jane Kurtz
Illustrated by: Alexander Vidal
Published: November 21, 2023
Publisher: Beach Lane Books
If a dinosaur fan is in your house, they might like knowing the history behind all of the dinosaur research we read about today. If you’ve ever visited a museum that had a skeletal dinosaur, you have two men to thank for the research behind dinosaur fossils, O.C. Marsh and Edward Cope.
In 1863, these two men joined their knowledge about science and dinosaurs and started working together. They wrote letters and shared information back and forth. They went on fossil hunting trips and even named new fossilized creatures after each other. Marsh and Cope became great friends.
But, after Cope put together a bundle of fossilized bones and Marsh noticed that something didn’t look right, their friendship and working relationship were forever altered. Marsh corrected his friend after Cope put a fossilized skull on the tail rather than the neck of the animal. Cope was embarrassed and angry. Their friendship was over and The Bone Wars began.
Vidal took great care to illustrate the dinosaurs and other creatures that were named so that they resembled the knowledge that the scientists had in the 1800s. The dinosaurs we know today may look quite different because we have new research and knowledge that proves they looked differently.
Aside from the history and science of how dinosaurs’ fossils were collected, categorized, and named, kids will also learn about the dangers of pride. These two men went to great lengths to destroy each other’s hard work and in their haste to “beat” their competition, made critical mistakes. Having a conversation with kids about what these men could have done differently and how they would handle a friend pointing out a mistake would make for another important lesson.
This book also reminds readers that science is constantly evolving and what was discovered as fact in the 1800s can be something completely different today based on new and updated information, technology, and research. Even though Marsh and Cope lost a valuable friendship, they still made great advances in dinosaur research that are still part of what we know about dinosaurs today.
Jane Kurtz fell in love with dinosaurs as a seven-year-old visiting Dinosaur National Monument. She is on the faculty of the Vermont College of Fine Arts’ MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program, lives in Portland, Oregon, and is the author of many fiction and nonfiction books for young readers, including Most Bones: Dinosaur Hunter, What Do They Do with All That Poo?, and The Clues Are in the Poo: The Story of Dinosaur Scientist Karen Chin. To learn more, and to download a free curriculum guide, visit her website: janekurtz.com.
Alexander Vidal spent his childhood summers searching for fossils and learning about prehistoric life at a camp hosted by the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. He now lives in Los Angeles, where he writes and illustrates books about wildlife and nature, including Just You and Me: Remarkable Relationships in the Wild by Jennifer Ward and Cougar Crossing: How Hollywood’s celebrity Cougar Helped Build a Bridge for City Wildlife by Meeg Pincus. Visit his website: alexandervidal.com.