Finalist in the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books, NSTA Selector's Choice for "Outstanding Science Trade Books," starred reviews (see below).
Chapter 1: Bone Detective
Read this sample online for free.
Diane France has loved horses all her life. I watched her feed and care for Trey on the open Colorado range around her home, rubbing sunscreen on his white skin and scraping the fly bites off his belly. When Trey eats a carrot, you can hear him in Wyoming!
Diane and her brother share a picnic in tiny Walden, Colorado, with their dad and grandfather.
Homicide Case Lecture
Diane takes you from start to finish on a homicide case (one hour video). The victim "does now have a name."
Diane's Chicken Bone Lesson
In which she encourages play and exploration for middle school students: energy and curiosity "run amok"! (7-minute overview)
Patricia Wallace Case
Diane France recovers a skeleton to identify, a missing hiker, in a 2014 case.
Interview with Diane (2014)
Diane France describes her fascinating job recovering and identifying skeletons and on STEM science in Hollywood at NSTA 2014. Zombies and math and more!
Diane is now working on a 130-year-old Wild West mystery.
In this VIDEO LECTURE,
Diane France steps you through a real murder case while showing how to identify bones and evidence of trauma. Here's a shorter (7-minute) HIGHLIGHT REEL
from the talk.
is the bone casting business that Diane France founded. Browse the replicas for an idea of anthropologists compare detailed features to determine clues to a person's identity.
is the disaster relief team that Diane France joined to help identify the victims of disasters and accidents such as fires and plane crashes.
is made up of volunteer scientists and law enforcement experts who search for the clandestine graves where murderers hide their victims.
A recap of the evidence in the ROMANOV CASE
and other forensic science cases.
In this online SKELETON GAME
, you assemble scrambled bones into a skeleton. (You need the free Adobe Shockwave plug-in to play—there's a link on the site.)
GIRL SCIENTIST MAGAZINE
wrote a nice overview of the Women's Adventures in Science series. (Thank you!)
Booklist (starred review): "The extensive detail gives readers a vivid sense of the daily work of a 'bone detective,' and clear explanations of the science will intrigue and inspire readers."
School Library Journal: "Engaging career biographies of contemporary scientists . . . . The sections about their early lives will pull readers into the books . . . . As these women are currently on the job, their historical impact is not yet known. However, the fine writing and inspiring work of the scientists will reward those students who choose to read these books."
"A lovely paperback, well worth the price with great color pictures and straight forward text. An excellent reading choice for an older child who might be interested in learning more about Forensic Anthropology and/or about the interesting life story of Diane France and her work experience in this sub-discipline of Anthropology.... There is no attempt to candy coat some of the finer details of her experiences, so beware of this if looking for a book for the younger child, or those who may have strong sensitivities."
Here's what kids say:
6th grader from Hockaday School (Texas): Wow! This story was incredibly written and written with such clarity and fascination it's hard to believe. I can honestly say I really, really enjoyed reading that portion of the book and actually looked forward to the next page. Hats off to the writer of that one! The content of the writing, as far as difficulty goes, was perfect. I especially enjoyed how you mentioned how Diane always made the best out of a bad situation and managed to get a smile out of it (ie forsenic incident) I also loved the connection with her mother, Dolores, and the flashback to when Diane was younger. An important aspect of a biography is not just centering the book around that one person, also incorporating friends and family such as Paul, Dolores, and Tom. This section was also very humorous and light-hearted, fun to read. In fact, I am so astonished and pleased with this that I can't wait until it is published! If advertised correctly and if kids give it a chance, it'll definitely be a big hit. Thank you!
7th grader from Agnes Irwin: It was very interesting and at some parts I found myself laughing. I pretty much liked all of this one. I really liked the glossary box, it was really convenient. It was a little easy [to read] but that's a good thing. [Diane France] sounds really interesting and I want to hear more about her.
8th grader from La Colina Jr. High (California): It was very interesting to read and there were some funny parts too. The best part was the story about the brain spilling in the brand new car.
6th grader from Mt. Michael (Michigan): Diane France is a forensic anthropologist. She solves murder cases and disappearances. She helped discover bones from the Guam incident in 1997 and at Ground Zero, 9/11. This is a great book to read because it teaches you about cases you've never heard about like the Romanov bones and Diane's cast of her face and a tiger's tongue.
Q: Why didn't the skeleton bungee jump off a cliff?
A. Because it didn't have the guts.
Geek 1: Wanna hear a joke about sodium?
Geek 2: Na.
CREEPY OR COOL? Diane is holding a plastic model of her own skull. It was 3D-printed from a CT scan of her head.
Diane France is one of 100 certified forensic anthropologists on this planet! (She's #41.)
The forensic part of her title means that she's an expert on analyzing evidence in an investigation—a crime, a disaster, an accident. As a physical anthropologist, she analyzes bone evidence—skeletal remains—to determine age, sex, height, cause of death, and many other important clues.
This rare and exciting career has taken Diane around the world and back in time on adventures:
- to Siberia, Russia to "meet" the skeletons of the royal Romanov family, murdered in 1918 by communist revolutionaries
- to the American Civil War to make casts of the bones of the "Hunley boys," the first submarine crew to successfully sink an enemy ship in wartime, only to drown shortly afterward
- to the Wild West to cast the skull of outlaw Jesse James—or so people claim
- to New York City after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to help collect evidence from "Ground Zero"—the World Trade Center site
- to other plane crashes, fires, and disasters—often at a moment's notice—as part of an emergency rescue and recovery team called DMORT.
In 2013, Diane investigated a 130-year-old skeleton found in Deadwood, South Dakota. Her conclusion: "The man was 5-foot-4 to 5-foot-8, white and 18 to 24 years of age at the time of his death." He died in the early days of the gold boom, but the cause of death is undetermined. The search for his identity continues.
In 2016, she got a call from the Art Student's League of New York. She says: "It's an amazing, amazing place - kids as young as 8 have free range to do whatever they please - painting, sculpture, etching, welding - and they can switch to other media whenever they want. They give scholarships to people who can't afford to go. Mrs. Hicks, an artist, attended the school in the 1940s and loved the place so much that she wanted to return as a skeleton." So that's what Diane did.
The Romanov royal family in 1913. Diane insisted that the skeleton of Anastasia (right), the youngest), was missing. Her Russian hosts disagreed.
This biography for tweens and early teens is part of the 10-book Women's Adventures in Science series by the National Academy of Sciences.
I'm honored to receive an Outstanding Science Trade Book for Children award, Selector's Choice (highly recommended), from the NSTA/Children's Book Council and for the book to be nominated as a 2007 finalist in the young adult category of the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books.
NSTA REVIEW OF THE SERIES:
LIBRARY MEDIA CONNECTION REVIEW:
The 10-volume Women's Adventures in Science series . . . should be on every middle and high school librarian’s "must buy" list for 2007. The books are, first of all, beautiful. Each is filled with photographs, sidebars, glossaries, timelines, maps, and other graphics that provide key information about the field of science within which each woman has excelled. . . .
Once inside, the true power of the Women’s Adventures Series is revealed as eight talented authors weave the very personal story of their journey from girl to scientist. The books begin with an overview chapter of the life and career of the scientist profiled, and then they move into a kind of flashback to her earliest years. The emphasis on adventure will appeal to a wider variety of young women than most biographies.
Fifth-grade students with whom I shared these books loved looking at the photos of the scientists as girls and young women and reading about how their early interests, successes, and setbacks affected their choices in later life. Girls also strongly connected with the emotion in the stories. When asked what the coolest thing about the book was, one student said, “It told how she felt about a lot of things"; another commented that the scientist and author “told it how it really was.” This emotional content ranges from academic and professional achievements or failures, to family joys and sadness, and it does much to help girls see these scientists as both passionate professionals and daughters, wives, and mothers. . .
Late middle school and early high school students will make important connections from their own current coursework to college and career. . . The girls in my room buzzed about the books from the moment they chose them, and the books passed from hand-to-hand as they were finished. . . .
Let me offer these words written by an eighth-grade student. After reading four of the books, she wrote that they were “motivating and inspirational. They show that smart and successful women can be famous for their achievements in science and math, and that women are not only famous for being celebrities. These books inspire young women to work hard, go to college, and go into a career that you are passionate about.” I couldn’t have said it any better!
AMERICAN REFERENCE BOOKS ANNUAL REVIEW:
I started to skim through these fascinating volumes before writing my review and ended up reading them from cover to cover. What makes these biographies unique is the fact that they are written about modern-day working scientists who collaborated with the authors while the series was being written. Along with the illustrations, fact boxes and sidebars are included, which make this set very user friendly and a welcome addition to a school library's collection. . . . Recommended.
The goal of the series can be summed up in one sentence from the series preface: “The challenges of a scientific career are great but the rewards can be even greater.”
The obvious use for these books are for students doing research on either specific areas of science or for those researching one of the women featured in the series. They could also be used, however, as motivation and inspiration to young women looking to go into the scientific field. This set is recommended for middle and high school libraries.
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