The Great Unknown

Overview

The Great Unknown tells, in words and pictures, the story of one of the most important turning points in the study of natural history. Two hundred years ago, Charles Willson Peale, founder of America’s foremost natural history museum, heard that a number of large bones were found buried in a farm field in upstate New York. He journeyed there and, with great effort, excavated and eventually assembled the bones into an almost complete fossil skeleton, only the second in the world. It was the first skeleton ever ...

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Boston, MA 2001 Hard cover New in fine dust jacket. One inch cut on lower left front jacket. Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. Picture book. 32 p. Contains: Illustrations. ... Audience: Children/juvenile. The Great Unknown tells, in words and pictures, the story of one of the most important turning points in the study of natural history. Two hundred years ago, Charles Willson Peale, founder of America s foremost natural history museum, heard that a number of large bones were found buried in a farm field in upstate New York. He journeyed there and, with great effort, excavated and eventually assembled the bones into an almost complete fossil skeleton, only the second in the world. It was the first skeleton ever assembled of what we now call a mastodon. The imposing mastadon skeleton was soon put on display in Peale s museum in Philadelphia. People came from all over to see the huge creature. Not only did Peale s curiosity and determination pave the way for future paleontologists, his discovery of the mastodon wa Read more Show Less

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Overview

The Great Unknown tells, in words and pictures, the story of one of the most important turning points in the study of natural history. Two hundred years ago, Charles Willson Peale, founder of America’s foremost natural history museum, heard that a number of large bones were found buried in a farm field in upstate New York. He journeyed there and, with great effort, excavated and eventually assembled the bones into an almost complete fossil skeleton, only the second in the world. It was the first skeleton ever assembled of what we now call a mastodon. The imposing mastadon skeleton was soon put on display in Peale’s museum in Philadelphia. People came from all over to see the huge creature. Not only did Peale’s curiosity and determination pave the way for future paleontologists, his discovery of the mastodon was pivotal in convincing the public of the reality of extinction.

Describes the efforts of the artist and paleontologist Charles Willson Peale to excavate and display the bones of a prehistoric creature now known as the mastodon.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
One day in 1799, a farmer in New York discovers the biggest bone he's ever seen. He digs harder and finds a whole bunch of bones but not enough to determine just what he has found. Hence, the farm and townspeople call it "the great unknown." Soon after, Charles Peale, a museum owner in Philadelphia, buys the bones from the farmer. In an attempt to find the remaining bones, Mr. Peale looks in the original place where the farmer found the bones. But water now fills the hole, and not even a pump can get all of the water out. After Peale searches all of the other swamps in the area, amazingly, he finds the missing pieces, assembles the bones, and puts the great skeleton in his museum. This enjoyable introduction to the mysteries hidden below the earth will introduce younger readers to the interesting field of archeology. 2001, Houghton Mifflin, Ages 6 to 10.
— Daniel Peters
School Library Journal
Gr 3-5-Huge bones unearthed more than 200 years ago on John Masten's farm in New York's Hudson River Valley led to solving the mystery the animal scientists had called "The Great Unknown." The somber-toned paintings and bare-bones text of this picture-book account follow the efforts of Charles Willson Peale to excavate enough bones from the valley's peat bogs to assemble the full body of the extinct animal now known as the mastodon. Morrison begins with a preface describing the herds of mastodons at the end of the Ice Age. Several pages into the book, the title page is followed by the momentous discovery and Peale's subsequent efforts to find the other bones. Morrison gets a bit ahead of himself, showing much of the skeleton when the first bone was unearthed. Peale's effort to drain the soggy land with a giant pump is among several intriguing scenes rendered in dark tones suggesting a long-ago time. The staccato text will challenge some readers, though the handsome scenes tell an interesting but sketchy story. Michael O. Tunnell's amusing picture book The Joke's on George (World, 1995) is more within the grasp of primary-grade readers. Janet Wilson's The Ingenious Mr. Peale (Atheneum, 1996) is a full-length biography, and James C. Giblin's The Mystery of the Mammoth Bones and How It Was Solved (HarperCollins, 1999) nicely describes the history of both Peale and the mastodon. The Great Unknown is a serviceable and sometimes eye-catching introduction for middle-grade readers.-Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Two hundred years ago, a farmer in upstate New York discovered some giant bones while digging in peat bogs. Dubbed "The Great Unknown" by the newspapers, the findings attracted the interest of Charles Wilson Peale, creator of Philosophical Hall, the Philadelphia natural-history museum. Peale purchased the bones and then planned excavations in an effort to find a more complete skeleton. The search for the rest of the mastodon, the struggle to excavate, reconstruct, and display the skeleton are handsomely depicted in carefully researched paintings, often in sober earth tones. Scenes include not only the primitive means of retrieval and transport, but also snippets of daily life at the beginning of the 19th century. While the brown and bronze cover painting of a fossil skull hints of mystery, the author spoils the surprise of the mammoth discovery with a forward that shows it as it might have looked when it roamed the Hudson River region 12,000 years ago. Still, this inviting presentation has certain reader appeal and might even inspire future paleontologists. (further adult readings, glossary) (Nonfiction. 8-10)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780395974940
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 4/23/2001
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.75 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 0.13 (d)

Meet the Author

Taylor Morrison pairs his artistic talent with extensive research to bring readers engaging nonfiction picturebooks. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, he has illustrated several books for children. He was born in Kansas, raised in Illinois, and now makes his home in Oregon.

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