Review of How to Build a Human: In Seven Evolutionary Steps

How to Build a Human: In Seven Evolutionary StepsHow to Build a Human: In Seven Evolutionary Steps
by Pamela S. Turner; illus. by John Gurche
Intermediate, Middle School    Charlesbridge    112 pp.    g
4/22    978-1-62354-250-4    $19.99
e-book ed.  978-1-63289-773-2    $10.99

“Evolution is a journey, not a destination.” The paths and branches of human evolution, from our primate ancestors to Homo sapiens, are thoroughly covered over seven chapters (with titles like “We Get Swelled Heads” and “We Invent ­Barbecue”). The book shows how physical traits, social behaviors, intelligence and empathy, and the ability to teach and talk afforded advantages to various hominid species. Turner (Crow Smarts, rev. 11/16) is a consummate storyteller: her steady pace through millions of years of the human evolutionary line is buoyed by an amused stance, joke-filled footnotes, well-timed shifts into second person, and modern-day analogies attuned to a middle-grade audience. At the same time, she is meticulous in emphasizing the main underlying concepts of evolutionary science: her terms are precise, her representations of scientific knowledge clearly differentiate between hypothesis and established fact, and she confronts misconceptions head on (see especially a powerful statement about the unscientific construct of race: “race is a cultural construct, not a biological reality”). The main text includes numerous diagrams and maps; photographs of landscapes, fossils, artifacts, and modern animals; and artistic interpretations of long-extinct species. It’s followed by another fifty pages of notes and resources, timelines, and a glossary.

From the March/April 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Danielle J. Ford
Danielle J. Ford
Danielle J. Ford is a Horn Book reviewer and an associate professor of Science Education at the University of Delaware.

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