In a previous life (of mine) my father-in-law, an evolutionary biologist, kept an oil painting of a fish on the wall of the living room. At every chance he would point out, to visitors or to anyone else if there were no visitors, that he kept a portrait of his distant ancestor hanging in a prominent location, pointing to the oil painting. It was funny even the third or fourth time. It isn't really true, of course, that this was his ancestor. It was a bass, more recently evolved to its present form than humans, I suspect. But it is true that the last common ancestor of humans and fish was a lot more like a fish than like a human.
I know it is hard to find good books about evolution for kids, and it is even harder to find a book for really young kids. A book needs to be written for the audience, engaging, entertaining, and all that -- it needs to be a good book -- before it can also teach something. A book that teaches but sucks as a book doesn't really teach much.
Recently, Jonathan Tweet of Seattle Washington sent me a draft of a book he was working on that is such a thing, a good book that teaches about evolution and targeted to young kids. He had sent the book around to a number of experts for two reasons. First, he wanted to make sure he wasn't saying anything wrong vis-a-vis evolution. Second, he wanted to make sure he got his facts straight at another level so he could provide useful and accurate footnotes for the adults who might read the book for the kids. I had a comment or two, but really, he already had his ducks in a row and the book, with the notes, was in good shape. It had evolved, as a project, very nicely.
The book is: Grandmother Fish: a child's first book of evolution. From his blurb:
Grandmother Fish is the first book to teach evolution to preschoolers. While listening to the story, the child mimics the motions and sounds of our ancestors, such as wiggling like a fish or hooting like an ape. Like magic, evolution becomes fun, accessible, and personal. Grandmother Fish will be a full-size (10 x 8), full-color, 32-page, hardback book full of appealing animal illustrations, perfect for your bookshelf. US publishers consider evolution to be too “hot” a topic for children, but with your help we can make this book happen ourselves.
Jonathan made a kick-starter to raise 12,000 to produce the book. He's already reached that goal and is now edging towards the stretch goal of $20K.
You can visit the kickstarter site HERE. You can download an early draft of the book. Personally, I plan to make this a Christmas gift for several friends and relatives who have kids the right age, assuming it is available by then. You can also see a several videos by the author and illustrator.
You can go to the Kickstarter site now and invest in any one of several different products that will be sent to you.
You may know of Tweet's other work on Dungeons & Dragons and similar projects.
I recommend the book, strongly. Thank you for writing it, Jonathan.
That's a great story about your father-in-law. Fish have an iconic role in popular culture as "something we evolved from," along with the primordial ooze and apes.
Thanks for the kind words and the help. Things are going great! In case your readers are interested, the best place to follow Grandmother Fish is Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/grandmotherfish
Thanks for the facebook link!
Fish are great of explaining evolution through natural selection.
I'm always amazed by the work of Dr Endler from the University of California whose work investigating guppy fish demonstrates that evolution can take place amazingly fast!
This article is suitable for quite young kids Newtonsapple.org.uk