A Dinosaur Named Ruth: How Ruth Mason Discovered Fossils in Her Own Backyard

by Julia Lyon (Author) Alexandra Bye (Illustrator)

A Dinosaur Named Ruth: How Ruth Mason Discovered Fossils in Her Own Backyard
Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

For fans of Shark Lady and from the New York Times bestselling illustrator of Dr. Fauci comes the incredible true story of a girl who discovered dinosaur bones in her own backyard and, after years of persistence, helped uncover one of the most exciting paleontological discoveries of our time.

There's an extraordinary secret hidden just beneath Ruth Mason's feet. The year is 1905, and Ruth is a prairie girl living in South Dakota. She has no way of knowing that millions of years ago, her family farm was once home to scores of dinosaurs.

Until one day, when Ruth starts finding clues to the past: strange rocks and rubble scattered all across her land. They're dinosaur fossils--but she doesn't know that yet, either. It will take many years of collecting these clues, and many, many questions, but Ruth's curiosity will one day help uncover thousands of fossils all across her land.

New York Times bestselling illustrator Alexandra Bye's vibrant illustrations bring to life this inspiring and exciting debut picture book from award-winning journalist Julia Lyon.

Kirkus Reviews

An intriguing look into the early 20th century that features a strong female hero and—most importantly—dinosaurs. 

School Library Journal

Gr 2-4--In this charming picture book biography, readers learn about Ruth Mason, a little-known contributor to the world of dinosaurs. Mason grew up in South Dakota in the early 1900s. She would often find bones in her backyard and started to collect them. After years of collecting and writing to experts, Mason was visited by a fossil hunter who confirmed that her treasures were indeed fossils that were millions of years old. Students will be able to identify with Mason's curiosity and wonder. The digital illustrations enhance the text with their soft colors and whimsical sensibility. Further reading suggestions are provided. This would be a great choice for reading aloud during fossil or dinosaur units. VERDICT A strong selection for picture biography collections, especially where there are gaps on the women in STEM shelves.--V. Lynn Christiansen, Wiley International Studies Magnet Elem. Sch., Raleigh, NC

Copyright 2021 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly

Starting with Ruth Mason's childhood in 1905 South Dakota, where "no one thought much of the strange rubble"--the fossils she collects near her home, Lyon and Bye profile a white, "curious girl who discovered a lost world beneath her busy feet" in this told-you-so telling. Though she writes to museums and universities, which deem her finds "worthless," Mason "knew enough about the land to know that what she kept finding wasn't ordinary." She spreads her collection beneath nearby elms, creating a bone garden of "ancient secrets harvested from her land." After a fossil hunter called Rick Brooks arrives in Mason's 80th year, a group of experts finds "thousands of bones, representing at least ninety-nine dinosaurs" near her Badlands home. Digital art shows Mason's world in jewel tones, bringing the vibrancy of her certitude, and her finds, to portrayals of the landscape, the fossils, and tables covered in a lifetime's worth of letters. Back matter includes an author's note and further reading. Ages 4-8. (Nov.)

Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Julia Lyon
Julia Lyon is a graduate of the Columbia University School of Journalism and spent more than ten years working in daily newspapers in Oregon and Utah before becoming a freelance writer in 2013. She has won a United Nations Correspondents Association gold medal after visiting refugee camps in Thailand and has won many other journalism awards and distinctions for her reporting. A Dinosaur Named Ruth is her debut picture book.

Alexandra Bye is a freelance illustrator specializing in fun, colorful illustrations for a variety of media such as editorial and children's publications. Her work is constantly inspired by her flourishing New England community and reflects the energy and dynamic personality of hometown pride. In her free time, she enjoys mountain biking, Nordic ski racing, Jiu Jitsu, studying nutritional therapy, and hiking in the White Mountains with her dog, Oliver.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication date
November 20, 2021
BISAC categories
JNF003050 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Animals | Dinosaurs & Prehistoric Creatures
JNF037050 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Science & Nature | Fossils
JNF007120 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Biography & Autobiography | Women
Library of Congress categories
South Dakota
Mason, Ruth

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