Today is the 215th anniversary of Mary Anning’s birthday, and it is celebrated by the current Google Doodle. I’m taking this opportunity to encourage you to learn more about Mary and her fossils.
I thoroughly enjoyed Remarkable Creatures by Tracey Chevalier. The story alternates between the perspectives of Mary Anning herself, and Elizabeth Philpot, the two women becoming friends and advocates despite their different standings in society. Through their eyes, we explore the social and economic realities of the period, and the controversy that their discoveries led to. Tracey Chevalier has conducted vast research to ensure that the main events of the story, and the personalities of the two characters, are as close to the truth as possible. While much of the dialogue and the everyday events described are not confirmed by records, they are accurate depictions of what could be expected at such times by such people in that period, and they tie together the known events of the two women’s lives.
I recommend this book to anyone interested in exploring the life and times of Mary Anning and her palaeontological discoveries.
Resources for teachers:
By Tracey Chevalier
Synopsis: On the windswept, fossil-strewn beaches of the English coast, poor and uneducated Mary Anning learns that she has a unique gift: “the eye” to spot fossils no one else can see. When she uncovers an unusual fossilized skeleton in the cliffs near her home, she sets the religious community on edge, the townspeople to gossip, and the scientific world alight. After enduring bitter cold, thunderstorms, and landslips, her challenges only grow when she falls in love with an impossible man.
Mary soon finds an unlikely champion in prickly Elizabeth Philpot, a middle-class spinster who shares her passion for scouring the beaches. Their relationship strikes a delicate balance between fierce loyalty, mutual appreciation, and barely suppressed envy, but ultimately turns out to be their greatest asset.
Remarkable Creatures is a stunning historical novel that follows the story of two extraordinary 19th century fossil hunters who changed the…
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