Do you know the thrill of following your curiosity no matter where it leads? Imagine being O.C. Marsh before he became one of the first people to study American dinosaurs. He hadn’t yet seen the first stegosaurus or apatosaurus. He was poking around in the ground…and uncovering birds with teeth.
He also found a bone from a pterodactyl, “truly a gigantic dragon even in this country of big things.”
But it was Edward Cope, Marsh’s arch-enemy who had the way with words. “These strange creatures,” he wrote, “flapped their leathery wings over the waves, and often plunging, seized many an unsuspecting fish; or, soaring, at a safe distance, viewed the sports and combats of more powerful saurians of the sea. At night-fall, we may imagine them trooping to the shore, and suspending themselves to the cliffs by the claw-bearing fingers of their wing-limbs.”
For the past few years, while I was learning all about O.C. Marsh and Edward Cope, I was also reading about what modern scientists are learning about dinosaurs–and I started seeing interviews with Dr. Karen Chin. She combines two of my picture book interests. Dinosaurs + poo. So I traveled to Boulder, Colorado (where I was once part of my very first graduate program) and interviewed her.
She represents something cool about dinosaur science. For a long, long time, the people who dominated dinosaur research were men–mostly with facial hair. Like O.C. Marsh and Edward Cope.
However, it was a woman–Mary Anning–who followed her curiosity and looked inside the strange stones by the ancient skeletons she was uncovering…and saw bits of fish…and figured out that she was looking at fossilized dung. Coprolites. Something Dr. Karen Chin knows all about!
So, yes. For picture books coming out in 2023, I’m learning about an epic fight between O.C. Marsh and Edward Cope but also about what dinosaurs ate and who composted their poo. What could be better than all my favorite threads coming together?