Lucy Long Ago

Lucy Long Ago: Uncovering the Mystery of Where We came From by Catherine Thimmesh

hominid book cover

BIBLIO: 2009,HMH Books for Young Readers, Ages 8 to 13.
REVIEWER: Gwen Harter.
FORMAT: Middle Grade book
ISBN: 9780547051994

Thimmesh brings Lucy, the ancient hominid, to in an easily readable book. This novel introduces basic paleontology and anthropology concepts to the novice reader. Scientific approaches to fossilization, excavating, casting fossils, dating fossils, reconstruction in all senses of the word, are explained in layman’s terms. There is a fascinating discussion about Lucy and how she fits into the evolutionary theory and the human’s ancestral tree. Even more fascinating is the sculptural representation of Lucy that John Gurche took fifteen months to create. The intricate and time-consuming description of his work sounds marvelous to look at in person, even though the pictures in the book do it plenty of justice.

The book is thin, consisting of only sixty-three pages including a list of sources and the index. Addressing six simply posed questions this book breaks up complicated and disputed theories into simple to understand statements. There are many high quality photos in the book ranging in size from one fourth of a page all the way up to a double page spread. Accompanying the photos are simple representations of some of the scientific procedures, such as how to cast a fossil, and how sediment buries the bones and fossilizes them.

As interesting as this book may be to look at, it lacks the substance needed to entertain most people. I would recommend this book to girls and boys in grades 5-8. This book was written with a certain narrative-like feel and did not contain enough hard facts to be used as a supplemental academic material or for any real curious reader looking for anything of substance. I would not recommend this book as you could probably find out more from an article in a magazine like National Geographic. It would not be worth the money and time spent to put it on the library shelf.

Charles and Emma

Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman

 silhouette book cover

BIBLIO: 2009 Henry Holt and Company LLC, ages 12 and up, $18.95.
REVIEWER: Gwen Harter.
​FORMAT: Chapter Book
ISBN: 978-0-8050-8721-5​

​This is a charming well written biography of the life of Charles Darwin. Like most biographies it is hard to capture everything so this particular one focuses on Charles domestic life after his marriage to his wife Emma. The book is structured like a fiction title in that it is easy to read and told with heavy third person narrative with plenty of “dialogue” meaning the words the author found in letters were used as the works. She fills in the details with general details about the setting, person’s temperament, and the Victorian era. There is a Table of Contents like in most nonfictional books along with a foreword, picture inserts, family tree, source notes, a selected biography, and a detailed index. In the beginning of each chapter the author leaves a written quote from a letter or reading material that directly relates to the subject of the chapter. The author at the beginning of the bibliography also offers two websites among her sources for further investigating for the curious mind.
The book begins with Darwin debating the pros and cons of gaining a wife and family that comes along with marriage. He obviously decides to marry, his first cousin, the lovely Emma. The story picks up after his five year long journey on The Beagle, the trip where he studied finches and began to develop his theories of evolution. His internal struggle with marriage to Emma, the theme of the book, revolves around their differences in opinion about religion. Charles worries a devoted Christian like Emma would have trouble loving a questioning scientist like himself. The story briefly covers their casual courtship, engagement, and then their happy life of being married. The reader follows the newly wed thirty year olds as they have their first child in London, experience the house at Down as it fills up with their plentiful litter of children. Grief is felt at the deaths of two babies and the darling of the family Annie, and the constant sickliness of the members of the home. Joy over the seven surviving children, Darwin’s success, and being a part of the countryside. This book highlights the Darwins’ domestic life but does bring the scientific works of Charles through encounters with his academic friends and the repeated mention of his daily routine, a large part of it studying barnacles, pigeons, and orchids in his study. While the Darwins had their struggles and their triumphs the author made sure to make the reader aware of just how much love this famous family had for each other and how they persevered and made a great life for themselves.
This book won the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults in 2010.

Watch Out for Flying Kids

Watch out for Flying Kids!:
How Two Circuses, Two Countries, and
Nine Kids Confront Conflict and Build Community.

by Cynthia Levinson

book cover, circus kids

BIBLIO: 2015, Atlanta: Peachtree Publishers, Ages 12 to 18, $22.95.
REVIEWER: Gwen Harter.
FORMAT: Young Adult book

Reaching for the impossible is easy for these remarkable kids. A form of entertainment that doesn’t come up often, the circus arts, focuses on skilled physical and mental talents. But what about talents of peace and unity? Levinson writes about children performers from St. Louis, USA and Galilee, Israel that challenge the norms of society about typical hobbies and typical relations. The unprecedented novel follows the stories of nine main troupers through seven years of international friendships and performances. The book observes each circus, flipping back and forth over a specified course of time, explaining tricks and routines, the nine trouper’s thoughts and personal lives, and the directors’ engagements, as well as general experiences that feed into the circuses developments. Each circus is enthralling, the St. Louis Arches with their professional performances and highly demanding practices show how advanced this hobby can go, to the point of attending a circus college! The Galilee Circus sections speak out about the difficulties of mixing Arab and Jewish children together because of their religions, languages, and moving past their shared yet volatile history as a country and community. Not to mention, their struggles of developing as a circus without the proper training space and supportive staff to train them. Together, is when the circuses have the most impact on the people around them and the reader as they recount performing as the cohesive Galilee Arches, learning from each other and gaining valuable life experience. Switching the trips between Israel and America gives all of the troupers a chance to experience a different culture while setting a social example. The book is equipped beautifully with a pronunciation guide, index, pictures, and side bars. Easy to use to inspire many conversations about diversity, barriers, strength of character, and more.