A young apprentice of the Hatchery named Janet when she accidentally endangers a dinosaur egg. During the time away, she encounters a gravely wounded Saurolophus, a very rare dinosaur. Entrusted with the dying Saurolophus's newly laid egg, Janet braves the wilds of Dinotopia, and must return to an uncertain reception at the Hatchery.
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Janet Morgan and her nestmate Zeypher the Dryosaurus are apprentices at the Hatchery. Janet receives her first solo assignment- to watch the egg of a hadrosaur named Grass Sweeper overnight. Janet falls asleep during her shift, endangering the egg.
Ashamed of her mistake, Janet runs away from home with Zeypher. On the way to Waterfall City, the two take refuge for the night in the home of Sada, an old woman who also ran away from home in her youth. Sada convinces the two to return home and gives them supplies for the trip home the next day.
Janet and Zeypher get lost in the woods and stumble upon an injured Saurolophus named Kranog. Zeypher returns to the Hatchery to get help, and Kranog guides Janet back to her home, an abandoned hatchery at the base of an active volcano. There, Kranog lays an egg- the last of her clan, and entrusts Janet to bring it safely to the hatchery. Janet reluctantly leaves Kranog, who is too injured to travel, and begins her trek home.
Once again, Janet gets lost, but she encounters a pair of traveling Ovinutrix named Azure and Oriss. She tells the dinosaurs about Kranog and her mission, and they agree to get help for Kranog and give Janet directions. Janet gets lost again, however, and wanders into the Rainy Basin.
In the Rainy Basin, Janet meets the Archaeopteryx poet Anthaxan, who is visiting the Basin for inspiration. Janet tells Anthaxan about her journey and the task she was entrusted with, and this inspires Anthaxan to create a poem about her. She tells Janet that she will return to Waterfall City and spread the word about her.
Following Anthaxan's directions, Janet finds her way to the Polongo River. While washing her feet in the river, Janet slips and is almost carried off by the current, but is rescued by Oscar Van Meer and Bucephalus, a Euoplocephalus. They take Janet to Waterfall City where she is met with great fanfare.
Janet returns to the Hatchery with the egg, where a rescued Kranog and Azure are waiting. Kranog adds Janet's to the list of her clan's names, and she names her new hatchling Gonmen. Janet and Zeypher become traveling apprentices, lending their expertise to the places they visit.