New children’s book on evolution, fact-checked and with foreword by moi

Laurence Pringle, a well known author of children’s books on science and nature, has just come out with his new book on evolution, Billions of Years, Amazing Changes.  It’s intended for children between the ages of 9 and 12. Besides writing the foreword, I vetted all the science, so you can be guaranteed that your kids won’t be learning anything wrong.

(Notice the reptilian bias on the cover)

It is, I think, a very worthwhile book. I haven’t followed children’s books on evolution, but figured it was time I got involved.  I don’t know if there are any competitors, but I’d recommend this one. You can get it for only $12.11 on Amazon.  And Amazon allows you to look inside, so you can check it out before you buy.

Here’s my foreword (click to enlarge).


  1. Posted October 25, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    Wonderful! As you observe, it’s long past time we had a good selection of elementary evolution books.

    I eagerly await Ms. Crumpacker’s review….



  2. Posted October 25, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been looking for a book like this!

  3. Posted October 25, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    Hi Jerry. Can you ask Laurence or the publishers to get in touch? I would love to get a review of this into TREE.


    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted October 25, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

      I assume that the email you sent is the contact info for TREE, so I forwarded that to the author.

  4. Posted October 25, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Permalink


  5. Posted October 25, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    Very cool! The best thing is that it will likely end up in lots of school libraries and classrooms, where kids may chance upon it at the “perfect moment” and share it with their friends. That’s so different from learning something in class.

  6. Circe
    Posted October 25, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    Off topic, but is there a deep reason why this blog (anything hosted on WordPress is by definition a blog: check the Book of Blog, Word 3:16 if you don’t believe me) uses the word “moi” (which I believe is the French equivalent for “me”) in place of honest-to-goodness “me”, in titles of posts?

    • GaryU
      Posted October 25, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

      I assure you there is. You’d find the reason very, very deep indeed. I’d share it with you, but I must go find a cup of tea.

    • Posted October 25, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      It’s there to show my amazing facility with languages, including LOLspeak. . . .

    • Marella
      Posted October 25, 2011 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

      All the best people say “moi” …;-)

    • JBlilie
      Posted October 26, 2011 at 2:36 am | Permalink

      C’est moi!

  7. Toni Clark
    Posted October 25, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Daniel Loxton’s book is good, too.

  8. Posted October 25, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    I vetted all the science, so you can be guaranteed that your kids won’t be learning anything wrong.

    Well, Larry Moran will probably complain about “….usually, natural selection” ;-).

    But about previous kid’s books: Prehistoric Animals by Sam and Beryl Epstein. Not about evolution as a major theme, but as I recall contains a basic explanation of the principle of natural selection (along with stratigraphy) which is not bad for the time of publication (c.1960?).

  9. daveau
    Posted October 25, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    “Usually ships in 1-3 months”

    So, not the perfect Solstice present?

    • Posted October 25, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

      Maybe your local independent bookstore can get a copy for you more quickly.

  10. Steve Smith
    Posted October 25, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    I vetted all the science, so you can be guaranteed that your kids won’t be learning anything wrong

    In the age-old Cantabrigian tradition of leafing through a newly publish work and pointing out the first error, T-Rex isn’t supposed to be standing upright. Look forward to the book in a few years for teh kid.

    • Posted October 25, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

      I didn’t vet the illustrations, just the text. . .

      • Steve Smith
        Posted October 25, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

        Whoa, whoa! Breach of etiquette! You’re supposed to briefly acknowledge, then undercut my superiority by responding “Thanks … asshole.” Then we move on.

        • JBlilie
          Posted October 26, 2011 at 2:41 am | Permalink

          Naw, the explitives are all at Pharyngula.

  11. Jean-Paul
    Posted October 25, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Coyne,

    The cover shows a dinosaur using his tail as a support, some sort of third leg. Is this representation correct?

    • Steve Smith
      Posted October 25, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

      Ooh! Can I please respond to this one!

    • ChasCPeterson
      Posted October 25, 2011 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

      That particular T. rex was just caught in a moment of up-periscoping for a look around. And a sniff of the breeze.

  12. Posted October 25, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    This is wonderful! It’s great to see this kind of thing coming out for children.

    A lot of adults can benefit from books like this as well. That might seem like an odd thing to say to the readers here, who I’m guessing are mostly highly educated, but well-written books for young people can be a great way for adults to “graze” a subject and get a broad overview before deciding whether to dig in more deeply.

    I used to hang out with an electrician who was one of the most intellectually well-rounded and engaged people I’d met. When I asked him how he’d acquired such a breadth of knowledge, he told me that he’d usually start with a good kids book to get an outline of a subject, then if he was still interested, he’d move on to something for adolescents, and if that didn’t satisfy his curiosity, he’d get into more technical literature. That way, by the time he got to the technical stuff he didn’t feel he was in over his head, even if he didn’t have a background in that specific subject.

    There’s a lot of interesting things to learn about (something about sipping water from a fire hose), and we can’t all be experts, so if you can handle the incredulous looks from your friends and the local librarian, “kids” books can be a fun way to get a bird’s eye view before zooming in for the close-up.

    • Diane G.
      Posted October 26, 2011 at 12:08 am | Permalink

      Great strategy. And kids’ books often have far more illustrations.

  13. satan augustine
    Posted October 25, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    Over at Pharyngula PZ suggests a book on for younger children:

    “Bang!: How We Came to Be”
    by Michael Rubino

    amazon link:

    • Leslie
      Posted October 25, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

      I was just going to mention PZ’s suggestion.

    • Steve Weeks, DDS
      Posted October 26, 2011 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

      Sex education for young children?

  14. Hempenstein
    Posted October 25, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    The last two paras are particularly nice! But, at the start, wouldn’t it be better that Evolutionary Biology shows us how vs. tells us that all creatures are related?

  15. Neil
    Posted October 25, 2011 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    We need to emulate the Catholic church, and get ’em while they are young. More importantly, we need to get them before their brains are addled by religion. Evolution, although astounding, is completely reasonable, and easily understood by young minds that have not been polluted with nonsense.

  16. hank9000
    Posted October 25, 2011 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    This is great and we need zillions more books like this. As a kid I would’ve much rather leafed through this during one of my frequent visits to doctors’ waiting rooms or ERs than some patronising Bible comic.

    My dad was a high school science teacher for 30 years and is a sucker for biology and botany, a great photographer of native flora and a keen bushwalker. His shelves were always (still are!) full of text books, atlases and encyclopaedias aimed at all ages, so I never had much trouble filling my spare time as a kid. If something was over my head I could quickly get it explained to me in simple terms. I fondly remember that part of my childhood and to be able to have a similar experience with my own kids would be beyond awesome – I’m getting this book and anything else like it!

    • JBlilie
      Posted October 26, 2011 at 2:42 am | Permalink

      See the comments above for further suggestions.

  17. Diane G.
    Posted October 26, 2011 at 12:11 am | Permalink

    Bravo to you and Laurence Pringle!

  18. JBlilie
    Posted October 26, 2011 at 2:33 am | Permalink

    Will be buying …

  19. Posted October 26, 2011 at 3:47 am | Permalink

    It looks like an interesting book even for us big kids. Well done, all.

  20. Posted October 26, 2011 at 6:46 am | Permalink

    You’re are bragging about scientific accuracy, and right on the front cover you have what seems to be an anatomically outdated theropod reconstruction 🙂

  21. Kevin Shaw
    Posted October 26, 2011 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    I can’t see this theory of Evolution,one of my sticking points is that recorded history only goes back about 5000 years and then magnificent structures could be built and are still standing such as the pyramids. How did that happen,it’s seems like we exploded onto the scene.Any thoughts please, no abuse just thoughts,thanks.

    • Posted October 26, 2011 at 9:08 am | Permalink

      “Recorded history” requires writing, which was developed by various civilisations as work skills became more specialised. Advanced in agriculture made this sort of lifestyle possible — before that, human societies were quite different, and (AFAIK) none of the ‘pre-civilised’ societies developed writing.

      Some of these civilisations left large monuments that are still around. It’s not too surprising, for those who built with stone.

      However, there are plenty of more subtle traces of human life that are much older than “recorded history”. Basically it was civilisation that exploded, not humans per se (since we had been around a long time before that).

    • Posted October 26, 2011 at 9:15 am | Permalink

      Then you have been sadly misinformed. Go back before the Pyramids and other major ancient monument-building civilizations and you find human remains, and basic artefacts like flint arrowheads and stone axes — simple stuff. Go back earlier and the organic remains look less like humans and more like what we would classify as apes. Further, there aren’t even apes, and so on…..

      The fact that recorded history begins with impressive stuff like the pyramids is because that’s when writing got invented (because, obviously, you can’t record history without it, can you?), which is because that’s when large-scale agriculture got started, and enabled large-scale human social structures (which needed writing to keep track of stuff).

    • Steve Smith
      Posted October 26, 2011 at 10:55 am | Permalink

      recorded history only goes back about 5000 years

      That’s true—6400 years, to be exact, back to our two common ancestors Adam and Eve.*

      *Not counting the 10,000 year-old Mesolithic structures at Stonehenge, the 25,000 year-old Venus of Laussel figurine, the 30,000 year-old Chauvet Cave paintings, the 40,000 year-old Gobustani rock engravings, …

    • hank9000
      Posted October 26, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

      Then I humbly suggest you read the book that is the subject of the post! Then another, then another, then you’ll probably get the idea.

      It might very well look like “we” exploded onto the scene – relative to the age of the Earth (4+ billion years) we are in fact very recent. Evolution isn’t just a theory of human history, it’s a theory of the diversity of life itself, which has been evolving and developing for nearly as long as the Earth has existed.

      Anyway, there couldn’t be any recorded history before there were humans around to do the recording. Who could’ve been writing stuff down before we emerged – T Rex? Trilobites? Tree ferns?

  22. Starmaker
    Posted October 26, 2011 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    Awesome. I hope the Russian nonprofit Dynasty Fund will sponsor a translation and subsequent publication. Kids need to learn about evolution along with “why does the sun shine”.

    When I was in primary school, we were given kids’ bibles. I was 7 at the time and didn’t know anything about Christianity, so I read the brochure and went “Huh? It’s a book of fables, like Krylov’s or Aesop’s, only every animal is a sheep. Who’s that bearded dude on the cover, the author?” The idea of religion was absolutely ridiculous to the 7-year-old me, and I wish today’s schoolkids would share my attitude.

  23. Kevin Shaw
    Posted October 27, 2011 at 1:14 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the above interesting reply’s, I will take onboard.

  24. Dawn Oz
    Posted October 29, 2011 at 12:22 am | Permalink

    Jerry, I wish you would buy an iPad and realise where the world is heading. The first thing I did was check that this excellent book is not in an eBook or app form; whereas, Dawkin’s book is. And again, to remind you to put WEIT on the kindle app for all (including Australians).

    However, thank you again for your insightful, incisive and committed list – it is one of the lights of my day.

  25. MarcusA1971
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    A lovely Forward to the book. I may get it myself, even though I have no children of my own (Maybe one day?)

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