New children’s book on evolution

January 5, 2012 • 4:52 am

Laurence Pringle’s children’s book on evolution, Billions of Years, Amazing Changes: The Story of Evolution is just out. I can recommend it not because I wrote the foreword (which is very short), but because it’s well written, well illustrated by Steve Jenkins, and I vetted it for scientific accuracy as well as making suggestions to the author about useful things to include. I think the final version came out nicely.

If you’re curious, the Amazon link above gives you the chance to look inside for a fairly thorough preview.

I think the book is intended mainly for children in school grades 4-8 (ages 10-14 in the U.S.). If you have a younger child and want to teach them about evolution, I can recommend Pringle’s book, and then Dawkins’s when they’re a tad older.

24 thoughts on “New children’s book on evolution

  1. Anything you’d recommend to bright kids under ten? My 4yo is probably a bit young, but she’s dinosaur-mad and is delighted by the idea that dinosaurs turned into birds, and little snapping raptors had feathers … though I haven’t yet broken the news to her that dinosaurs probably didn’t actually go “RAAAAAR!” at all.

    1. This might be okay for you to read to your child. Have a look inside at a few sample pages to see if it’s suitable. It’s actually good, I think, for children younger than I recommend above.

    2. For younger kids I would HIGHLY recommend the Usborne ‘See Inside’ series of books. They have some good science books that I got my older nephew when he was five, and he enjoyed them. They’re nice, colourful, very simply put, and most importantly are scientifically accurate (based on my own knowledge).

      I just looked on Amazon, and they don’t have a book specifically on evolution – but they do have a ‘See Inside the World of Dinosaurs’ book that your daughter would probably like.

      I’d also recommend Michael Rubino’s book ‘Bang! How We Came to Be’ as a brief primer on evolution for younger kids – which also comes recommended by Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers.

      More generally on biology – I would highly recommend a book that’s now out of print, which I read on my own (and got the gist of) when I was six, and which you can get off Amazon for a penny if it’s available, called ‘DNA is Here To Stay’. There are supposedly another two from that series (‘Cell Wars’, and ‘Cells and Things’, I think) that I’m going to buy to see if they are also as good, to be passed on to my nephews.

      And just as one last final book-pimping – which does VEER towards evolution in that it discusses antibiotic resistance – I really think that anyone with a scientific bent looking to inspire kids in their life ought to buy ‘Germ Stories’ by the Nobel Prizewinner Arthur Kornberg. There really aren’t a lot of kids’ microbiology books out there, and this one is written by a Nobel Prizewinner, in RHYMES. And who DOESN’T want to hear their kid happily reading out rhymes about Clostridium tetani, Salmonella typhi, and Penicillium notatum? It really is a delightful book, and my sole niggle with it is that it claims that AIDS stands for ‘acute’ rather than ACQUIRED Immunodeficiency Syndrome. 

      So, uhm, have fun on Amazon, then… 😀

    3. David, the best science / evolution / big history books for kids between 4 and 14 years of age that I know of are Jennifer Morgan’s trilogy: Born with a Bang (from the Big Bang to the dawn of life), Lava to Life (from the beginning of life to the end of the dinosaurs), and Mammals Who Morph (the last 65 million years). They are beautifully illustrated by Dana Lynne Anderson. Here’s the Amazon link to Volume 1:

  2. I read that quickly and thought it said, “ages 4-8 (ages 10-14 in the U.S.)”

    I thought man has the education level in the US dropped.

  3. ” age range is roughly grades 4-8 (ages 10-14 in the U.S.).”

    I misread that sentence at first, thinking you were suggesting it for 4-8 year old children outside of the US, and 10-14 year olds in it. Spent a minute or two wondering why you considered American children six years behind everyone else.

    1. I just had to make a comment…watching CNN regularly and more specifically AC360 – some of your Republican contenders for the shot at Obama make one wonder about the term “retarded”! Perhaps “deluded” is the right word and I am referring to Rick Perry and Mitt Romney. Rick Perry especially for his believing that mass “prayer” meetings imploring the “Almighty” to end the drought in Texas – it got actually worse, didn’t it…?

      1. Yes, the drought continued on for months after his little exercise in Establishment Clause violations.

        Unfortunately, it seems that the inmates are running the asylum these days.

  4. I read The Magic of Reality to my 3rd grader and we both loved it. I expect that she’ll like this one too.
    She knows about WEIT, loves the caturday posts and will enjoy seeing what you have to say in the foreword.

    For younger children, Our Family Tree is good. My daughter just asked me to read it to her last night. Even though it’s for younger children, she still loves it and there some more detailed science in the back for expanding on the ideas.

  5. I bought this book and read it to my daughter, a fourth grader, for bedtime reading. It is very well written and age appropriate. I can tell she appreciated it. Coming from Texas I just assume she’s never going to learn this stuff in her grade school years.

  6. I’m reading The Magic of Reality to my 7-year old and he’s enjoying it. He’s extremely into anything natural, especially avian, marine, or paleontological. I disucss with him to ensure he understands.

    We have also enjoyed very much:

    Our Family Tree: An Evolution Story

    Evolution: How All Living Things Came to Be (Loxton)

    Maybe Yes, Maybe No: A Guide for Young Skeptics (Barker)

    The Kid’s Book of World Religions which is excellent and now appears to be out of print. It’s not west-centric.

  7. Good to hear. From your review, Dr. Coyne, I think that the illustrated Darwin book would be great for kids to look at the gorgeous photographs and for adults to read. It could be handed down for generations – I know my favorite books growing up were those with amazing visuals and I was able to read them over when I was more able to understand science.

  8. I also think it’s a mistake to underestimate kids (and adults) ability to understand science. The more we challenge them the more they’ll understand.

  9. From page 49

    “Scientists studies the DNA of finch species living on the islands and found that every one had a single common ancestor that lived in South America.”

    Scientific proof of virgin birth?

    Otherwise I would have expected at least two common ancestors.

  10. I already donated “Billions of Years”, “Bang!”, “Our Family Tree” and “Magic of Reality” to my school library. Students love science books. I am a Middle School librarian (6-8th grade, 11-13 year olds) If you have the funds, I recommend purchasing and donating these titles to local schools. Dinosaurs are a big hit with every generation so donate those books also.

    Know that science loving atheist are everywhere, even in the public school system. We are doing our best to teach children to think critically.

  11. My one problem is seeing that badly outdated depiction of the tail-dragging T-Rex on the cover. That just makes me twitch.

  12. Thanks for the heads up, Jerry. I’ll order a copy.

    In addition to those mentioned by others above, such as Our Family Tree (under 6) and, of course, The Magic of Reality (over 10), the science-oriented books Connie and I have found most helpful and inspiring for those ages 5-14 are Jennifer Morgan’s trilogy: Born with a Bang, Lava to Life, and Mammals Who Morph, each illustrated by Dana Lynne Anderson. Most adults love them too. Here’s the Amazon link to volume 1:

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