Grandmother Fish: A Child's First Book of Evolution

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
Grandmother Fish: A Child's First Book of Evolution Book Poster Image
Sound science made simple in kid-friendly book on evolution.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Complex concepts of evolution made simple for young readers. Seven pages of back matter supplement the text. Concepts of natural selection and artificial selection (breeding) introduced. There are evolutionary family trees, classes of animals such as fish, reptiles, mammals, and traits of different species, including humans.

Positive Messages

Art shows children and families of all races: "We are all closely related, and we are one human race." We're also the "grandchildren," descendants of animals, and therefore related, with some of the same inherited traits.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Indicates that humans and some animals care for and nurture their offspring. Notes that Grandmother Mammal "could cuddle with her babies and feed them milk."

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Jonathan Tweet's Grandmother Fish: A Child's First Book of Evolution is an excellent introduction to evolution that's written clearly, simply, and accessibly. It follows our evolution from fish to reptile to mammal to human, and the science is put in terms kids can understand, for instance it uses the word "grandchildren" instead of "descendants." It also invites participation, prompting readers to wiggle, squeak, and cuddle, and to search the art for specific animals. Clearly written back matter provides information parents can add when kids are ready. This book plants the seeds for an understanding of evolution, while promoting respect for all animal life and the concept that we're all part of one human family.

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What's the story?

GRANDMOTHER FISH: A CHILD'S FIRST BOOK OF EVOLUTION follows the evolution of animals from fish to reptile to mammal, then zeros in on ape and human. It calls our earlier animal ancestors our "grandmothers," then names some "grandchildren" that sprouted off those branches of our family tree. It names a few simple physical traits developed by each that contributed to keeping it "safe," and therefore to its natural selection. The family tree is delivered in small segments in the story, then pictured as a whole in one long spread at the end. Extensive back matter supplements the text so parents can "elaborate each point at your children's level, and explain it a little at a time."

Is it any good?

Evolution's a slippery concept, but this excellent book breaks it into manageable bites that will be understandable to young brains, and folds the information into a fun and interactive story format. Grandmother FIsh: A Child's First Book of Evolution is perfect for young, squirmy kids, inviting them to wiggle, chomp, crawl, and squeak just as animals were able to do as they evolved. It also prompts them to "find" our various "grandmothers" as they develop along our family tree. The information in the book can be read at different levels, depending on a kid's age or science knowledge. An extensive section of back matter provides lots more information for parents to share and discuss when kids are ready. 

The tone is entirely inviting, to adults as well as kids, and the cheerful illustrations by Karen Lewis are completely kid-friendly. A spread at the end -- "Grandmother Human had many kinds of grandchildren" -- pictures kids and families of all races, making the point that we're one human family. This is a great book for introducing the concept of evolution.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the concepts of evolution in Grandmother Fish: A Child's First Book of Evolution. Do you understand them all? Which ones are harder for you to follow?

  • The book asks if you can wiggle, chomp, crawl, breathe, squeak, cuddle, grab, hoot, walk, and talk. How did the ability to do those things help animals stay alive and be safe?

  • The last picture shows kids and families of all different races. Find all the ones who look like people you know. How many can you find?

Book details

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