Monday, October 3, 2011


About a year ago, I told my husband that I wanted to write a book about bones. One that highlights their homology across species. Or in more kid-friendly terms, one that shows how the same bones are in the same places and do very similar jobs in lots of different kind of animals.

For example, A bat's wings are membranes stretched between their incredibly long finger bones. A whale's flipper has the same bones but much shorter, stouter, and crowded together. They have the same single upper-arm bone, two forearm bones, set of rock-like wrist bones, and elongated hand/finger bones that we do. They have simply been modified through time to suit their particular use.

Then one morning, my husband said, "Hey, look at this!" He pointed to a Science book view: BONES. "Looks like you had a good idea."


Yep. Good idea, too late. It was beautifully done by Steve Jenkins. So beautifully done, it won a Caldecott Honor Award. I have been wanting to get my hands on this book ever since, and we finally got a copy last week.

BONES is truly stunning. The illustrations are cut paper but are so realistic they look like photographs. (After teaching general zoology for several years, I've seen my share of animal skeletons up close and personal, and these are extraordinarily life-like.)  Some pages show different hands and feet. Others have different animals shown to scale, so it's easy to compare the femur (thigh bone) of an elephant, a human, and a cat. Or the ribs of a human, sloth, turtle and python (all 200 of them).

The text explains, in clear language, the various jobs of bones, from support and movement (via joints) to making blood cells.

It is exactly the book I wanted to write, illustrated in a manner I could never have done. And I am thrilled to add it to our collection. If your kids get Scholastic book club orders, look for it there in paperback. You'll learn a lot and love the illustrations, too!

Have you ever had an idea only to discover it had already been done?


  1. This has happened to me a couple of times. It's both frustrating and encouraging. It's great to know my ideas are on the right track and it is kind of like a kick in the pants to be more dedicated to my ideas.

  2. Not yet, but I'm sure it's bound to happen. Glad you've got a good attitude about the whole thing!

  3. Not yet. But that's too bad. The bones book does look good though. Not that yours wouldn't have been better.

  4. kmckendry: It is nice to know that the idea had merit, even if you had it too late. And yes, it spurs you on to work on projects faster!

    Thanks, Alex. :)

    Clarissa: Thanks. You should check out this one--it's really beautiful. And just... cool.

  5. Yes! I wrote Chrysanthemum only to discover that Kevin Henkes had already done it! My dad always uses the name Chrysanthemum when he's pretending he can't remember someone's name :)

  6. That does look a fantastic book. I don't know if I feel like my ideas have been done by someone else, but all the time I find myself thinking, geez, I wish I had written this.

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)