On the rocks;Children's books

25th June 1999 at 01:00
The 200th anniversary of the birth of Mary Anning, famed as the young fossil hunter of Lyme Regis, has prompted two very different picture books, both excellent, based on her life. Each concentrates on Mary's first and most dramatic discovery, an ichthyosaurus.

Stone Girl, Bone Girl by Laurence Anholt, with illustrations by Sheila Moxley (Doubleday pound;9.99) begins with Mary surviving a lightning strike when only 15 months old, and emphasises her close relationship with her father. After his death she hunts for curiosities with only a little dog as companion. It is a compelling and atmospheric account, with Mary cutting a lonely, driven figure.

Catherine Brighton's The Fossil Girl (Frances Lincoln pound;9.99), pictured above, is told in a series of speech-bubbled picture frames. Mary is accompanied by her brother Joe (no dog), and in place of the lightning strike she escapes injury when a wooden tower - built to help reach the ichthyosaurus - collapses. There is no need to decide which version is best: making both available will provide opportunities for comparing retellings, and for further inquiry into Anning's life.

Michael Thorn is the deputy head of Hawkes Farm primary school, Hailsham, East Sussex

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