Gr 4–8—Weaver bases six fictional scenarios on scientific discoveries about fossil remains of ancient human ancestors. Devoting her first chapter to a boy in New Mexico helping archaeologists uncover artifacts of the Clovis people, she explains how scientists carefully excavate and record remnants of ancient life. As Miguel thinks about the people who lived in his area thousands of years ago, his imagination carries him back much further to Africa. The following five accounts present exciting vignettes of what life might have been like at different points from 2,500,000 to 26,000 years ago. Over time the hominid groups developed language, made sophisticated tools, and participated in complex social organizations. Finding food was always paramount, but at times the hominids lost their battle with other animals. After each chapter, Weaver identifies the fossil remains on which she based her main characters and explains what scientists currently think about human development. Celeskey's illustrations, which accompany both the stories and the science explanations, rely heavily on shades of brown and orange and seem curiously static, even during dramatic scenes. Unfortunately, the first story is the weakest. Readers who persevere to the accounts of the distant past will discover more engaging narratives. Teachers in need of an alternate way to present information about human evolution might consider Weaver's approach. Catherine Thimmesh's Lucy Long Ago (Houghton Harcourt, 2009) is a more straightforward presentation.—Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State University, Mankato
In six fictional episodes directly linked to paleontological artifacts, Weaver retraces the past 2.5 million years of "hominin" (pre)history. Framed as a modern lad's daydreams, her reconstructions open with the short life of the Australopithecine "Taung child" and end with a supposed seasonal ritual by a group of early modern Homo sapiens in what would become Europe some 26,000 years ago. In between they offer scenes in the daily lives (and deaths) of Homo habilis, Homo erectus and Neanderthal in future Africa and the Mideast. With paintings that resemble museum-diorama backgrounds--loose, but careful with natural detail--Celeskey tracks evolutionary changes in facial features, body types and clothing (or lack thereof). As the narrative progresses, the author inserts speculative but informed touchpoints in the development of names ("Roaank Awaagh" to "Moluk of the Wolf Clan") and language, tools and culture. Explanatory afterwords elaborate on the evidence incorporated into each chapter. The level of violence is unrealistically low, but these purposeful vignettes add a gauzy back story to what today's children may have only seen as a few old chipped stones and fossil bones. (resource lists) (Creative nonfiction. 10-12)
Product dimensions: 8.80 (w) x 9.70 (h) x 0.90 (d)
Meet the Author
Anne H. Weaver has a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of New Mexico. She taught evolutionary anthropology at Santa Fe Community College for many years. She is now a full-time writer living in Santa Fe.
Matt Celeskey is a natural history illustrator whose work has appeared in numerous exhibits and publications. He is currently an exhibit designer at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.