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Lucy Long Ago: Uncovering the Mystery of Where We Came From

Overview

Illustrated in full color throughout with stunning compuer-generated artwork and with rare paleo photography, this story of scientific sleuthing invites us to wonder what our ancestors were like. From the discovery of Lucy's bones in Hadar, Ethiopia, to the process of recovering and interpreting them (a multidisciplinary approach with contributions from paleontologists, paleoanthropologists, archeologists, geologists and geochronologists), this book shows how a pile of 47 bones led scientists to discover a ...

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Overview

Illustrated in full color throughout with stunning compuer-generated artwork and with rare paleo photography, this story of scientific sleuthing invites us to wonder what our ancestors were like. From the discovery of Lucy's bones in Hadar, Ethiopia, to the process of recovering and interpreting them (a multidisciplinary approach with contributions from paleontologists, paleoanthropologists, archeologists, geologists and geochronologists), this book shows how a pile of 47 bones led scientists to discover a new—and, at 3.2 million years old, a very very old—species of hominid, ancestral to humans.

Scientists involved include: James Aronson, geochronologist at Dartmouth, NH John Gurche, paleoartist at Cornell, NY Donald Johansen, scientist at Institue of Human Origins at Arizona State University Owen Lovejoy, biological anthropologist at Kent State, Ohio Dirk Van Tuerenhout at Houston's Museum of Natural Science, Texas.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Extensive research, clear organization and writing, appropriate pacing for new ideas and intriguing graphics all contribute to this exceptionally accessible introduction to the mystery of human origins, timed to accompany Lucy’s six-year tour of U.S. museums.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"Here’s a nonfiction book that deserves the highest of compliments: it reads like a science book . . . Thimmesh opens her narrative with a poetic conjecture that gives such adventure its mystery and due: “Long ago it lived...even before it had a name. It climbed trees; it roamed the savannah on two legs; it munched on berries and grasses.” The answer to the implied question—“What is ‘it’?”—propels the reader to turn page after page . . . a handsome book, but also a substantive one."—The Horn Book Magazine

"With unexpected simplicity and even poetry, Thimmesh uses two beginnings to tell the story of the hominid who changed humans’ family tree . . . the final portrait of Lucy as she may have looked is a stunner. Like the investigative method itself, this sparks questions and also answers them."— Booklist, starred review

“. . . this should satisfy a young patron’s request for material on seriously old human remains.”—The Bulletin

"The book’s greatest strength is how it underscores the fluidity of our understanding in a field like anthropology; it shows how one discovery can change the thinking of scientists in a dramatic way . . . The clear writing, excellent photographs, and the unique approach of exploring the field of anthropology through one spectacular specimen make this book a first purchase."—School Library Journal, starred review

Children's Literature - Lynn O'Connell
Paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson discovered a pile of forty-seven bones in Hadar, Ethiopia, on November 30, 1974. Ultimately, scientists and researchers determined this was the skeleton of a hominid that had lived on the earth 3.2 million years ago. This book takes young readers on a scientific sleuthing adventure, exploring the many questions related to this discovery and ultimately addressing that key question: Where did we come from? First, was the skeleton that of a child or a grown-up? The answer: a grown-up. Next, was the skeleton the remains of a man or woman? The answer: a woman. What should we name "her?" Researchers selected "Lucy" because they were listening to the Beatles song Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds while they worked. Was Lucy a known or a new species? Researchers identified the skeleton as a new hominid. Other questions the book addresses: Was the skeleton ancient or modern? Was she wobbling or walking? And what did she look like? Photos of the life-size sculpture that paleo-artist John Gurche created are included in the book, giving insight into the final question. Reviewer: Lynn O'Connell
School Library Journal
Gr 5-10–The Beatles song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” was playing the night paleoanthropologist Donald Johnson found the first fossilized remains of the hominid that became known around the world as Lucy. This extraordinary discovery changed how scientists understood one of the basic concepts of human evolution–it proved that our ancestors began walking upright before the size of their brains increased. Thimmesh uses this discovery to explore several topics in the fields of anthropology and evolutional biology, such as how the bones were fossilized, the process for deciding that Lucy belonged to a previously unknown species (Australopithecus afarensis), and the cast-making process that allowed biological anthropologist Owen Lovejoy to reconstruct her pelvis and prove that she was bipedal. The author even touches upon what fossils can’t teach us about our ancestors–their emotions and family patterns. The final chapter discusses the process used by paleoartist John Gurche to create a life-size sculpture of Lucy. The book’s greatest strength is how it underscores the fluidity of our understanding in a field like anthropology; it shows how one discovery can change the thinking of scientists in a dramatic way. This book also emphasizes the rigor of the sciences that study our human ancestors and explains clearly how these scientists carefully take the known to formulate new ideas about the unknown parts of our human history. The clear writing, excellent photographs, and the unique approach of exploring the field of anthropology through one spectacular specimen make this book a first purchase.–Caroline Tesauro, Radford Public Library, VA
Kirkus Reviews
The 1974 discovery of the fossilized partial skeleton of a small-brained primate who apparently walked upright 3.2 million years ago in what is now Ethiopia significantly changed accepted theories about human origins. Step by step, Thimmesh presents the questions the newly discovered bones raised and how they were answered. Using interviews and quotations from the specialists involved, she explains the work of biological and paleoanthropologists, geochronologists, and paleo-artists and shows how the hominid find now known as Lucy (or Dinkenesh, "beautiful one") helped turn the human family tree into something more like a bush. Sidebars clarify important concepts: hominids, evolution, fossilization, the scientific method (and its use of the word "theory") and the process of making plaster casts. Illustrations include photographs from the discovery, a map and helpful diagrams and pictures of comparative skeletal parts and of a life-sized model. Extensive research, clear organization and writing, appropriate pacing for new ideas and intriguing graphics all contribute to this exceptionally accessible introduction to the mystery of human origins, timed to accompany Lucy's six-year tour of U.S. museums. (glossary, sources, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547051994
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 5/18/2009
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 64
  • Sales rank: 630,964
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Lexile: 1130L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.20 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

CATHERINE THIMMESH is the Sibert Medal–winning author of Team Moon and Girls Think of Everything. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with her family. Visit her website at www.catherinethimmesh .com.

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