Book Review: Grandmother Fish: A Child’s First Book of Evolution

40PP.; $17.99

Simply written and delightfully illustrated, Grandmother Fish: A Child’s First Book of Evolution would be a great gift for the preschooler in your life.

The book, written by Jonathan Tweet, is meant to be read to children who have not yet begun, or are just beginning, to read themselves. It’s an engaging introduction to the basic idea of evolution, where fish lead to reptiles, reptiles to mammals, mammals to apes, and apes to us. Along the way, there are simple descriptions of what each can do, along with participatory questions like, “She could crawl across the ground. Can you crawl?” Then each group is shown to branch into several other groups, and the child is asked to help find which group will eventually lead to us.

Charmingly illustrated by Karen Lewis, there are bright, happy pictures that go along smoothly with the text. A final illustration, “Our evolutionary family tree,” gives a broad picture of how all life on earth is related, allowing kids to visualize how all different types of species come from each other.

The book ends with four very helpful pages aimed not at the child but at the adult reader, briefly outlining the basic concepts of evolution and providing a guide to the characters presented, so that the reader can check their own understanding should questions be asked that go beyond the basics presented in the story. Suggested explanations are age-appropriate and scientifically accurate.

While the book would only take a few minutes to read to a child, it’s wonderful how well the basic outline of evolution can be presented in those few minutes. The writer and illustrator have done a remarkable job presenting this important idea of science in a way young readers will enjoy.