Last year I came across the Kickstarter campaign to fund printing of a book written in American book called Grandmother Fish.
Written by Jonathan Tweet and illustrated by Karen Lewis, the book’s idea was to introduce the theory of Darwinian Evolution to pre-schoolers.
I read the free PDF and was impressed that it had bright engaging illustrations and was well written. It explained the topic simply to small children without dumbing it down to the point of inaccuracy. I had every hope that it’s campaign would go well and we would see it in print.
I have been very happy to see my hope realised and to be able to help to promote this great resource.
Darwin would be the first to admit that, despite years of careful observation and testing, he didn’t have all the facts at his
disposal when he published ‘On the Origin of Species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life’, and his ideas have been misunderstood by many and misused by some.
However, even with what we are now beginning to understand about the role of epigenetics in how the information coded in our DNA is expressed in more complicated ways than we imagined, the core ideas of his theory are remarkably resilient. His theory is easily observable, testable, replicable, and so became a Theory with a capital T and not just a theory with a lowercase (such as my theory that the calories don’t count if no-one actually sees me eat the biscuits, a theory which I have often tested and replicated but unfortunately observations have proved my theory to be unfounded).
Grandmother Fish takes Darwin’s ideas and presents them as a gorgeous celebration of the origin of life as we know it, and a wonderful thing to share with our children. It helps to answer the questions that pre-schoolers have about where we came from. It is even a super book for youngsters becoming confident readers, as we found out when we heard our eldest reading it to our youngest, including enthusiastically enacting all the actions with him ‘(Grandmother reptile) could crawl across the ground. Can you crawl?”.
The book could be seen on first view as human centric, as it places humans at the end of the story, but the common misconception that evolution is a straight line from fish to humans as the apex species is addressed though attractive family trees throughout the book and a list of misconceptions and corrections at the end. The final image of the group of humans is also very inclusive, which is still rare in children’s books.
The target age range is three to five, but I would have very much enjoyed reading this with the boys when they were even younger as they would have appreciated the bright colours as well as the story So my next hope is that one of the future editions will be as a chunky board book.
NB Grandmother Fish kindly agreed to send me a copy to review as I really want to help to promote excellent science resources, I have no other affiliation with them. Images and opinions are all my own.
Here in the UK I don’t think we can fully appreciate just how important, and even controversial, this book is in America. We generally expect here that everyone will come across evolution taught as accepted fact by the time they are in Secondary School, even if some Primary Schools are still heavy handed with religious education. This is not the case across the board in America, and reading Creationist’s posts about the book being ‘Darwinian indoctrination for kids’ has been an eye opener. I am a proponent of religious freedom of expression and I prefer to keep religion and politics out of my blog, but as a STEM blog reviewing a book on evolution it’s hard to step around this particular issue.