When Sue Met Sue” Sue Hendrickson Discovers Her T. Rex
by Toni Buzzeo, Illustrated by Diana Sudyka
Abrams Books for Young Readers (May 14, 2019)
Nonfiction * Biography * Women
Audience: Ages 6 to 9
Indiebound | WorldCat
Thank you Toni Buzzeo for stopping by Kid Lit Frenzy and sharing a little more about your new book WHEN SUE FOUND SUE.
What a fascinating research journey I embarked upon for my new book, When Sue Found Sue: Sue Hendrickson Discovers Her T. Rex! I set out to learn everything I could about Sue Hendrickson, the self-made paleontologist who discovered the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton ever discovered. Writing a picture book biography is incredibly challenging in that the author must generally research as though she would be writing a 40,000-word middle grade biography and then pare it back to a tidy 1000 words, with a single page allotted for an Author’s Note that summarizes everything she’s left out.
During my research, I learned that in childhood Sue honed her skills of observation, taking long walks of discovery, noticing everything worth noticing. As I am a person who lives very much in my mind (perpetually spinning stories, I suppose!), I was very curious about this habit of keen observation that began when Sue was young and has continued into the present. The proof is that Sue Hendrickson has been a professional diver since 1971, a specialist in fossil inclusions in amber from mines in the Dominican Republic and Mexico, a specialist in paleontology field work (especially dinosaurs), and a long-standing member of the Franck Goddio marine archaeology team. Not only has Sue searched for lost things throughout her life, she has possessed an uncanny ability to find them.
Having learned so much about Sue, my first several drafts were quite different from the book I published. Those early drafts covered all of Sue’s finding adventures in some detail, ranging widely across the span of Sue’s life because Sue Hendrickson has not just been a dinosaur-finder. Instead, Sue has been an everything-finder. So, in those drafts, I worked hard to highlight her propensity—present even in childhood and continuing in her many adult professional pursuits—for finding all manner of things.
However, my wise editor, Tamar Brazis, encouraged me to focus in more closely on the discovery of Sue the T. rex. But as I condensed the information about Sue’s other pursuits and concentrated primarily on Sue’s paleontology efforts, I never lost sight of Sue’s almost-magical ability to detect, to locate, to find what has long been lost.The long-lost skeleton of Sue the T. rex was no exception. During the summer of August 1990, her fourth spent digging duck-billed dinosaurs in the blistering heat of South Dakota, Sue felt pulled to a sandstone cliff in the distance. She couldn’t say why, but she says she was called to that cliff. On the last day of the dig, in the absence of her team members who had gone to town to get a tire fixed, Sue finally answered the mysterious call. She hiked for four hours over seven miles of rugged ground, and there she found the three enormous backbones of Sue the T. rex protruding from the cliff. As Sue Hendrickson herself tells it, “For two weeks this dinosaur was doing something to me, calling me. I didn’t actually hear voices. But something kept pulling me there. Something wanted it to be me that went there and found her.” (Tyrannosaurus Sue: The Extraordinary Saga of the Largest, Most Fought Over T. Rex Ever Found by Steve Fiffer, 2000.)
For me, then, the most intriguing piece of researching Sue was learning about her preternatural gift for discovery and the exciting life she has built in using that gift to enrich human knowledge—simply by finding things!
About the author: Toni Buzzeo is the author of the Caldecott Honor Book and New York Times bestseller One Cool Friend and many other books for children. She lives in Arlington, Massachusetts.
About the Illustrator: Diana Sudyka is a Chicago-based illustrator who got her start designing and screen-printing posters for musicians such as St. Vincent, Andrew Bird, and the Decemberists. She also volunteers at the Field Museum in Chicago, where Sue the T. rex is housed.
Look for WHEN SUE FOUND SUE in your local indie bookstore or community library.
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