Speaking of chickens…

chickoOver on my photo blog, I shared three picture books with silly birds last week.  This week I happened upon another great silly chicken story that I have to share: Chick-o-Saurus Rex by Lenore Jennewein and Daniel Jennewein.  It is about a Little Chick who discovers his family connection to the great dinosaur.  Fun and educational! ;)

Here’s a trailer:


And here’s the author talking about the book (with a funny joke at the end).


Evolution for Everyone

Earth Day is just around the corner (April 22nd), and I can’t think of a better way to spend it than learning about the “how” behind the natural world.  Here are a few good choices for appreciating evolution this Earth Day:

  • For All Ages –  Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors by Joyce Sidman – Yes, this is a picture book published for kids, but it is well worth perusing for just about anyone. It is really quite beautiful.
  • For Kids –  Life on Earth: The Story of Evolution by Steve Jenkins – Eye-catching and informative look at Earth’s history from its very beginning to the present.
  • For Pre-teens –  Billions of Years, Amazing Changes: The Story of Evolution by Laurence Pringle – A lively and straight-forward introduction to evolution illustrated by Steve Jenkins.  Here is a great blog post praising Pringle’s organization of the book, noting that he does not get side-tracked by unsupported doubts of evolution.
  • For Teens and Adults: Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth by Jay Hosler – This 
    Evolution by Jay Hosler on display at the Twin Cities Book Festivalgraphic novel (illustrated by Twin Cities natives from Big Time Attic) looks at life on earth through blob-like aliens learning about human genetics.  It isn’t as silly as it sounds.  Hosler (a professor of biology who has published a few science related graphic novels) keeps it fun, but informative.

If you don’t have plans for your weekend yet, you might want to join an Earth Day clean up crew. Check out your local parks department for details.  Here’s the Minneapolis Earth Day Clean Up page for you locals.

Disclosure: Amazon.com links are affiliate links.   A portion of purchases made via these links earns a commission for this blog.  Thanks for your support!

For more about religion & science, see my Secular Thursday page.

Exploring Evolution

While the status of evolution in public schools remains a pretty fierce debate, we do have plenty of great children’s books on the subject.  Here are a few of my favorites:

My personal favorite is Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors by Joyce Sidman.  This beautiful blend of poetry, science, and art is not just for kids.  I encourage anyone interested in science or nature to browse this book for its unique perspective.  The timeline on the end pages is of particular interest as it attempts to show evolutionarily just how briefly humans (life, really) have been on earth.

Our Family Tree: An Evolution Story by Lisa Westberg Peters seems like a good followup to On the Day You Were Born since the structure is pretty similar.  Each spread is dominated by a large painting with poetic text explaining scientific  ideas.  Each illustration is further explained in the end notes, and a time line incorporates the illustrations to tie it all together.  This book may require adult guidance since it does simplify the ideas quite a bit, but it is a good choice for exploring our connection with the natural world.

Steve Jenkins has written and illustrated many award winning picture books about animals, and his book about evolution, Life on Earth: The Story of Evolution, is one of his best efforts.   Jenkins is strong supporter of science education.  He writes on his web site about the wonder of science,

“My own belief is that the more we understand about what the universe is and how it works, the greater our appreciation of the beauty and wonder of the world, of each other, and of being here to think about it all.”

His unique illustration style mixed with his appreciation for science creates books that are really quite outstanding.  The time line compares geologic time to a 24 hour day, which may be helpful to put it into perspective for kids.

Robert Winston’s Evolution Revolution is a good choice for slightly older kids than the above.  While the layout makes the book easy to browse and eye-catching, the book is dense with information about history, genetics, Darwin, and more.  There are suggested activities throughout, and an animal guessing game creates a fun, interactive tone to the book.   This a a great choice for sharing the excitement of science.

Evolving Planet is not as densely packed with information as Evolution Revolution, but the thickness of this book may be intimidating to some kids.  Dinosaur lovers are bound to love it though because it spends more time on dinosaurs than any of the other books mentioned in this post.  The book is a companion to the exhibit of the same name at the Field Museum in Chicago, which presents the four billion year history of life on Earth.

These are just a few of the books that I recommend to families looking to explain evolution to young kids.  It can be hard to talk about with kids because it’s complicated and it isn’t kind or pretty.  But they may be more ready than you think.

More book recommendations about religion and science on the For Secular Families page.

Evolution, the controversy for kids

A recent Gallup poll highlighted the fact that belief in evolution among Americans is rising.  From the link:

Four in 10 Americans, slightly fewer today than in years past, believe God created humans in their present form about 10,000 years ago. Thirty-eight percent believe God guided a process by which humans developed over millions of years from less advanced life forms, while 16%, up slightly from years past, believe humans developed over millions of years, without God’s involvement.

Interestingly I recently read two children’s books on this subject.  First I read Octavia Boone’s Big Questions About Life, the Universe, and Everything.  The title caught my eye, and the dedication “For Freethinkers Everywhere” piqued my interest even more.   It isn’t directly about evolution as much as it is about the family dynamics involved when Octavia’s mom converts to a very particular brand of Christianity.  Octavia is a science-minded kid, and she doesn’t believe any of what her mother tries to teach her.   As you might imagine from the dedication, the author is coming from a position of bias against religion, and I think it shows.  I mean, how many other children’s books reference Russell’s Celestial Teapot?  As a result, I think the book will primarily be read among those who are already similarly biased against religion and their children.  Not that I think that’s a bad thing.  I actually wonder why there aren’t more children’s books aimed at the growing group of secularist families.

The other book I read on this subject was Mary Mae and the Gospel Truth.  This book had a slightly different approach, and it was more directly focused on evolution.  Mary Mae and her family are strict Christians, who balk at being taught evolution in school.  Well, Mary Mae is secretly enjoying her science class more and more as they delve into fossils, dinosaurs, etc.  She also appreciates that her science teacher always has answers for her while her Sunday school teachers keep brushing off her questions about creation and Noah’s Ark.   In the end, Mary Mae and her family learn that various members of their church believe different things regarding evolution, and they decide to keep their minds open.  A happy ending certainly.  But it wasn’t the ending I was expecting.  Also, I was distracted by the word “titties,” which seemed out of place in a children’s book about a religious family.  *shrug*

The best book on this subject, by far, is for slightly older audiences than either Octavia or Mary Mae.  If you are a teen, a parent of a teen, or someone who works with teens and you haven’t read Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande, you are missing out.  It is an excellent look at “the controversy” no matter what you believe.

My 15 Minutes

I’ve been blurbed.

I’ve been reviewing for Library Journal for several years now, and, to my knowledge, this is the first time my review has found its way to the back of a book. I have to admit: I’m proud.

I’m particularly glad it was this book. I’m more than happy to put my name/words behind Desmond Morris’ Amazing Baby. It is a fascinating look at infanthood from the eyes of a zoologist. As you might imagine from the author of The Naked Ape, everything relates back to human evolution. This is a great book for science-minded parents. I currently have Morris’ newest book, Child, out from the library, and it looks every bit as beautiful and interesting as Amazing Baby.