Twelve million years ago, a supervolcano exploded in what we now call the state of Nebraska; animals who used a nearby watering hole were buried under a blanket of ash, and lay quietly undiscovered for milennia, until 1953, when a 17-year-old farm worker and his father discovered a complete jawbone sticking up out of cliff at a spot called Bone Hill. Rhinos in Nebraska is the story of these animals, the supervolcano that killed them, and the discovery and construction of Ashfall Fossil Beds, where more than 200 perfectly preserved fossils have been uncovered. Author Alison Pearce Stevens worked with Ashfall researchers at the University of Nebraska State Museum as she wrote this story, which reads like adventure fiction, moving back and forth through different time periods to tell the story of this incredible archaeological discovery. Black and white illustrations and photos bring the story to life; the black artwork bringing to mind woodcut artwork that beautifully lends an ancient feel to these prehistoric animals. Alison Pearce Stevens generates emotion as she describes the agonizing deaths caused by the volcanic ash as deftly as she explains how a horse’s hoof evolved from three toes to one for easier movements like pivoting to evade predators. Back matter includes a glossary of terms – bolded in the book’s text – that come up throughout the narrative. There is also an author’s note and additional resources. Essential for ancient history readers.
Author Alison Pearce Steven’s website includes links to fun science videos and to activities related to Rhinos in Nebraska via TeachersPayTeachers.com. You can find more of Matt Huynh’s illustration work at his website. The American Museum of Natural History has a great, printable sedimentary layers puzzle available for free download.