Spine of their life;Primary;Reviews;Science;Books

8th May 1998 at 01:00
THE BIG BOOK OF BONES: An Introduction to Skeletons. By Claire Llewellyn. Macdonald Young Books. pound;11.99

The homo sapiens on the cover comes from the Booth Museum of Natural History, Brighton. Its red mountain bike belongs to a later stage in evolution.

Many of the creatures inside The Big Book of Bones have also escaped from the glass cases in the museum's skeleton gallery. And that's where the book was launched last month while pupils from the neighbouring Stanford junior school explored the gallery, completed a quiz and risked their fingers inside a tiger's jaws.

The contents hang together in a mutually useful way like, well, a skeleton. Claire Llewellyn's text is clear and engaging and is extended usefully by the ubiquitous fact boxes - bone-coloured Bone Up! panels in this case.

Chapters move from the introductory - a frog's long toes, a squirrel's nut-cracking teeth and a mole's burrowing front legs - to the cultural significance of bones as religious relics and symbols for Mexico's Day of the Dead, via sections on inner and outer skeletons, including a luscious spread on crustaceans.

Visually, the book is mixed. The skeletons are delightfully knobbly and the photographs which show the bones made flesh attempt to lift the pages, but the lumpy graphics and dull artwork have a deadening effect. In the tale of Zo 's broken leg, it seems that all of her has been set in plaster, not just the offending limb.

Geraldine Brennan

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