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A Bone From a Dry Sea Mass Market Paperback – May 1, 1995

3.6 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

PW's starred review commended the "gripping" narrative, in which scientific speculation, a feminist slant and a school of helpful dolphins coalesce in the tales of dual heroines born more than two million years apart. Ages 12-up.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

Dickinson (AK, etc.) returns to his native Africa for an imaginative look at humanity's dawn, postulating a male-dominated tribe of ape-like hominids who depend on the sea for food, have no tools, and communicate with calls that are not yet language. (In one of several scrupulous parenthetical explanations, Dickinson apologizes for the names he gives them as a fictional convenience.) ``Li'' has a genius surpassing Edison's: she not only invents useful devices (a net to catch minnows, a splint for a broken leg) but is the catalyst for changing the nature of tribal leadership so that ``it depend[s] less upon dominance and more upon consent.'' Young and female, Li lacks conventional power; what fascinates her is solving problems--especially how to get food in the coastal environment so persuasively described; and she's clever enough not to challenge authority but to bolster it in the most benign available leader. Meanwhile, in alternating chapters, modern anthropologists investigate the site, their scholarly pursuits and rivalries subtly echoing the earlier time. Each expertly crafted story builds to a suspenseful climax, but most intriguing is their eponymous link: a fragment of a dolphin's scapula found on what's now an arid upland site, with a hole that could only have been drilled by a not-quite-human hand. An engrossing portrayal of a gifted early hominid, less contrived, more convincing than--and a fascinating contrast to- -the ape with a transplanted human brain in Dickinson's Eva (1989). (Fiction. 11+) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 1040L (What's this?)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Laurel Leaf (May 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0440219280
  • ISBN-13: 978-0440219286
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.5 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,349,274 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Peter Dickinson was born in Africa, but raised and educated in England. From 1952 to 1969 he was on the editorial staff of the British satirical magazine, Punch, and since then has earned his living writing fiction of various kinds for adults and children.

Amongst many other awards, Peter Dickinson has been nine times short-listed for the prestigious British Carnegie medal for children's literature and was the first author to win it twice. He has won the Phoenix Award twice for "The Seventh Raven" and "Eva". He won the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for "Chance, Luck and Destiny". "Eva" and "A Bone from A Dry Sea" were ALA Notable Books and SLJ Best Books of the Year. "The Ropemaker" was awarded the Mythopoeic Award for Children's Literature and was a Michael L. Printz Honor Book. Peter's books for children have also been published in many languages throughout the world. His latest collection of short stories, "Earth and Air", was published in October and his latest novel, "In the Palace of the Khans" was published in November.

Peter Dickinson was the first author to win the British Crime-Writers Golden Dagger for two books running: Skin Deep (1968), and A Pride of Heroes (1969). He He has written twenty-one crime and mystery novels, which have been published in several languages.

He has been chairman of the UK Society of Authors and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He was awarded an O.B.E. for services to literature in 2009.

Website: www.peterdickinson.com

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on June 8, 1998
Format: Hardcover
A Bone From A Dry Sea Book Review This book changed completely the way I used to look at ancient civilations and the job of archeologists on searching for the unknown. A Bone From A Dry Sea is a novel by Peter Dickinson which include two related stories that happen at different times. One is about a little girl named Li who is the thinker of her people. Her uncle, Presh, was the leader of the tribe. One day the tribe was attacked and Presh was killed. Incidently, most of the tribe was killed due to a tsunami. Li took the leadership to lead them to a safe place. On the other hand, four million years later, the sea had dried. Vinny was visiting the site where her father worked searching for the fossil remains of our ancestors. There, she was considered their "lucky pet". This young girl found a bone and observed details which weren't even noticed by famous experts. Therefore, leading the team to infer outstanding discoveries and motivatig them to excavate more. This mysterious novel was very realistic and believable. Teenagers can relate to the characters. The story as pretty well developed, still leaving some information out to keep the mystery. It was hard to get bored, there was always something new happening. The first story was too descriptive and took pages to get excited. The ending solved all problems and uncovered mysteries, still leaving a thought in our mind, challenging the author to write a continuation in the future.
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By A Customer on June 8, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Vinny has convinced her mother to let her spend summer vacation with her father in Africa. Her father, Sam, is working in an archeological site in Africa without much success. Vinny comes and accidentaly matches a pair of broken skull and Dr. Hamiska, the leader of the site, begins to call her his lucky charm . Dr. Hamiska takes her to a site without much incident and Vinny finds something that wil change history and the world view of human evolution. Millions of years earlier, in the same place a small girl in-between ape and human begins to open her mind. She lives in a Sea-ape tribe accustomed to life on the beach. Her name is Li and gradually her mind is opening up to the world around her. A large current of problems makes the tribe look to her for help and her decision will forever change the future of humanity. A Bone From A Dry Sea is an interesting view into the world of paleontology and the cornerstone of evolution from ape to human. The author chose a unique way of writing by telling the story of these two girls in separate worlds by alternating chapters. Every chapter alternates between past and present. You begin to notice that what happens in the past world is repeated in the present. For example, a male begins to battle the dominant male for power and the same kind of battle for dominance occurs with Dr. Hamiska and Vinny's father. Which goes to show that some things never change.
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A Kid's Review on October 20, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I had to read the book "A Bone From A Dry Sea" for school and since no one else in my group wanted to read it, I ended up reading it and loving it. The book tells about the adventures of "Li" a girl who lived in Africa 4 million years ago and the story also talks about the life of a girl named "Vinny" who discovers the remains of a dolphin's shoulder blade and who also discovered some of Li's life when she visited her father in Africa.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
A Bone From a Dry Sea is an overall good book. Allthough some parts were I admit a little boring the book brings up some very important topics. I felt I could relate to the present main charactor Vinny. Li was another question. Even though it was hard to relate to Li, I found the part of the book concerning her to be very interesting. The way Li thought and used trial and error was what kept the book interesting, that and the parts of Vinny getting to know her dad...
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book was intended for children? A conceptual “what if” scenario or not, I wouldn’t expect most children to know enough evolutionary science to separate pure conjecture from theory supported by evidence. (This book is, basically, asking readers to imagine for a moment that the sea-ape theory is true, regardless of current scientific thought, and presents a possible scenario based on the “evidence.”)

I’d stay away from this book, and find others that present scientific concepts more competently—and more engagingly.


This book champions subpar science through a young girl named Vinny, visiting her scientist father in Africa at a digsite. She doesn’t understand evolution or aspects of paleontology—I wouldn’t expect her to, except that she learns nothing from the actual scientists in the book, parrots theories she found in a library book, demands that others disprove said theories, and in the end… this book validates her ignorance with the story of Li, a sea-ape child and early human ancestor who lived 4 million years ago.

The scientists tell her that the sea-ape theory is not supported by evidence and is, essentially, crackpot. I get what Vinny did—she tried to get a very conservative field to see something from another angle and give it some fair study. There’s nothing wrong with that, but how she does it sets a bad example and spawns some bad consequences for her and her dad.

The dialogue is choppy and vague. I was often confused about what characters were talking about, as they would jump between subjects and speak as if readers shared the father-daughter bond that sometimes leaves things unsaid, but implicitly understood.
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