A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Every Hidden Thing is by Kenneth Oppel, the acclaimed author of The Boundless, The Nest, and the Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein series. Like the train adventure story The Boundless, Every Hidden Thing has an intrepid spirit to it as two competitive paleontologist families head west in the late 19th century to discover dinosaur bones in the Badlands of South Dakota. The most jarring violence you'll find: the decapitation of two Sioux corpses "for science." Also: a snake bite nearly kills; men are threatened with scalping; a fire breaks out in camp; two men get beaten up, one's tied up and held prisoner afterward; and a few fistfights break out. A whole train car full of people gets drunk, including a teen, and there's some mature sexual content: older teens have sex a few times after they get married, with some description. Readers will learn quite a bit about both the paleontology of the era, and what a joy it must have been to be the first to discover these dinosaurs, and about life in the West post-Civil War, including the plight of the Native Americans at that time.
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What's the story?
In EVERY HIDDEN THING, teens Rachel and Samuel live somewhat parallel lives in the eastern U.S. years after the Civil War. Rachel's dad, a paleontology professor at Yale, has taught Rachel most of what he knows. She has a talent for sketching his finds. And Samuel's father, a less scholarly but more published fossil hunter, takes Samuel on his expeditions. Sam boasts he can put a raccoon's bones together in just minutes. So when Rachel and Sam meet at Philadelphia's Academy of Natural Sciences, sparks fly. Too bad their highly competitive fathers' fists also fly when they see each other again. Old rivalries die hard. Things gets worse for their fathers -- and better for the amorous Rachel and Sam -- when both men decide to hop on a train for the Badlands after they hear of some amazing fossil hunting grounds. The competition is fierce to find the biggest specimens as the threat of retaliation by the Sioux looms, especially after Rachel's unfeeling father takes the heads of deceased Sioux from funeral platforms "for science."
Is it any good?
This eclectic mix of Old West action-adventure, whirlwind romance, and dinosaur fossil hunting is the absorbing page-turner you didn't know you were looking for. Author Kenneth Oppel takes the intrepid spirit of his amazing 900-car train story The Boundless and throws in the often-amusing rivalry between two paleontologists, then adds a star-crossed-lovers tale between the paleontologists' only children, Rachel and Samuel. Put it all together and the story moves like a brushfire from teen flirting to Western barroom brawl to scientific discovery to Sioux raids and back. All that in just over 350 pages with not a word wasted.
The only time the reader may have to slow down and catch a breath: when the narrator changes abruptly between Rachel and Samuel. While it's great to know both perspectives, with so much going on it's hard to keep up with more than one narrator. A small quibble in an otherwise all-around great read. If Oppel doesn't have a huge fan base by now, he will very soon.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what you learned in Every Hidden Thing. What did you find out about paleontology in the late 19th century? What about the Native Americans?
What did Rachel and Sam learn about their fathers in the Badlands? How did it change them?
Have you read much historical fiction or books set in the Old West? If not, will you be interested to read more after this book?
- Author: Kenneth Oppel
- Genre: Historical Fiction
- Topics: Dinosaurs, History, Science and Nature, Trains
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster
- Publication date: October 11, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 17
- Number of pages: 368
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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