Book Review: Ivy and Bean Break the Fossil Record

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Does your daughter love dinosaurs. Check out this inspirational book. (Review by Go Science Kids)

Product Reviewed: Ivy and Bean Break The Fossil Record, by Annie Barrows and Sophie Blackall.

Age Range: 5-10 year olds.

Star Rating: 4 / 5 stars

The Good: Fun chapter book that introduces palaeontology, Mary Anning (pioneering female palaeontologist), and perseverance in science in a really positive light.

The Bad: The backyard palaeontological efforts of Ivy and Bean towards the end of the book aren’t really taken seriously. There is also some sibling disrespect.

The Verdict: This book, which can be read on it’s own or as part of the series, introduces a love of reading, Mary Anning as a positive female scientist role model, palaeontology and the importance of patience and perseverance in science in a positive way. It’s a great one for inspiring science-loving girls!

Go Science Kids review of Ivy and Bean Break the Fossil Record (with positive female science role models)

(This post contains affiliate links*.)

Earlier this year, we struck gold. A friend of Jewel and Bumble’s grandma was clearing out her teenage daughter’s bookshelf, and gave us all the books her daughter had collected from her younger primary school years.

Shelves and shelves of awesome books. What a score! We’re so very, very, grateful.

In amongst the haul, was a little unassuming chapter book called Ivy & Bean Break The Fossil Record. We didn’t even see it at first. But then, one day, Jewel picked it up and asked if I would read her a story…

Our review of Ivy & Bean Break The Fossil Record

The book starts with a parallel story following the books that seven year old girls Ivy and Bean are reading. Bean is reading The Amazing Book of World Records, and by recess, she has whipped the whole class (except Ivy) into a world record chasing frenzy. All the classmates start declaring which world record they are going to attempt, and Bean is desperate to break one too. Ivy, in the meantime, is engrossed in her book about Mary Anning.

“What’s that book about, anyway?” asked Bean.

When Ivy looked up, her eyes were shining. “This girl. Mary Anning was her name. She found the first whole ichthyosaur fossil in the world. She was only twelve when she did it, too. She lived near the beach and, one day, she saw a skeleton face in the cliffs. So she dug it out – it took her a long time, and everybody made fun of her, but she didn’t care – and it was an ichthyosaur! Only nobody knew about dinosaurs then.”

Can’t you just hear the enthusiasm in Ivy’s voice?

The book continues to tell of Bean’s various (unsuccessful) world record breaking attempts, alongside Ivy’s recounting of Mary Anning’s amazing endeavours, until the two story-lines collide with the girls deciding to break a world record by becoming the world’s youngest palaeontologists – by digging up dinosaur bones in Bean’s backyard.

This book is well written. It’s humorous and inspirational. Ivy’s awe of and passion for Mary Anning is infectious.

“Mary Anning used to go out hunting for fossils in storms. She didn’t mind,” said Ivy. “She built her own wooden tower next to the cliff where she saw the skeleton, and she lay down on it and chipped the ichthyosaur out off the cliff even though the tower was shaking and the rain was pouring down on her.”

This book empowers girls to believe that a career in palaeontology is not only possible, but can be fascinating too. And that working hard (and long) towards something that you believe in is rewarding.

I’m in two minds about the ending of this book. On one hand, I feel like Bean’s dad dismissed their findings too quickly. I would have liked to see the girls (and Bean’s dad) attempt to identify the bones that they’d found: perhaps they could look up common bone shapes or take them into a museum for identification. On the other hand, leaving the ending with unconfirmed findings sets realistic expectations. Palaeontology takes time, and effort, and study, and digging for two days in a backyard is not the same thing.

After reading this book, Jewel is keen to do some palaeontology role play, where she can focus on the process of palaeontology –  the search for a fossil rich area, the effort of digging, the patience of collecting bone after bone, the puzzle of putting the bones together.


Where to buy Ivy and Bean Break The Fossil Record

You can buy copies online (affiliate links) from (for the US), (for the brits) and Book Depository (for Aussies and other countries).


Other Key Features {that might be handy to know}

  • The book is 18.5 x 14 x 1cm.
  • Written by Annie Barrows, illustrated by (Aussie illustrator) Sophie Blackall. Published in 2008 by Chronicle Books.
  • It is book 3 in the Ivy and Bean series.

Ivy and Bean books 1-3

There are currently 10 books in the series so far. We’ve just borrowed Book 1 (Ivy & Bean) and Book 2 (Ivy & Bean and the Ghost that Had to Go) from our local library, so we can go back and catch up on the series. I found the first Ivy And Bean spunky and fun to read (although not particularly sciencey), and we haven’t finished Book 2 quite yet. I am, however, super excited to notice that Book 7 in the series, Ivy & Bean: What’s The Big Idea?, is all about coming up with an idea for a science fair. That one sounds awesome!


Click here for more science-related book reviews and gift suggestions.


Have you read any of the Ivy + Bean books? Do you have any other STEM or positive female scientist role model book suggestions? I’d love to hear them!


Disclaimer: My daughter received this book as a hand-me-down from a friend. This post is not sponsored, and all opinions are my (or my kids’) own. I have, at my own discretion, included some affiliate links in this post. An affiliate link means I may earn referral / advertising fees if you make a purchase through my link, without any extra cost to you. Referral / advertising fees are one of the ways I can keep this blog afloat. Thank you for your support.

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