Cover Image: When We Became Humans

When We Became Humans

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Member Reviews

This is the kind of book I would have enjoyed reading independently as a child. It starts with clarifying some terms which can be quite confusing for a young reader e.g. hominids, haplorhins and then goes to the very beginnings, the appearance of small primates. The book touches upon how scientists study fossils and discover all these fascinating facts. It also talks about walking upright, making first tools, fire control, cave art and the importance of climate change for our evolution. I loved the spreads on pre-historic food and healthcare development through time.
The book is amazingly comprehensive, including the burning question 'Is evolution over now that we can control our environment?'
Would make a great addition to a school library.
Thank you to NetGalley and Words and Pictures (Quarto Publishing group) for the ARc provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

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When We Became Humans: The Story of Our Evolution, by William Bright, is a nicely detailed and thorough overview of human evolution from our earliest primate ancestors through to Homo Sapiens. Following the arrival of our species, Bright continues the story by showing how human culture evolved through such developments as agriculture, art, and more.

This is one of those text-heavy books becoming more common in this golden age of children’s non-fiction. As such, and due as well to some of the vocabulary, it’s best read by older children, probably around ten at the earliest, though certainly parents could read it aloud and explain meanings to a younger child.

The early section on pre-hominids is clear and hits the highlights on differences as well as some theories of evolutionary development, such as the shift to bipedalism offering the survival benefit of seeing farther on the developing grasslands or color vision helping select ripened fruit. As one would expect of a modern book on the topic of human evolution, Bright highlights how the old “direct-line” theory has gone by the wayside, replaced by the more “bushy” version, with various hominid species living at the same time and even interbreeding, as he points out occurred between Home Sapiens and both Neanderthals and Denisovans.

As he notes physical changes, such as height, brain size, etc. Bright also points out various stages of cultural development, such as the taming of fire, the first tool use and how tools were later improved upon. As noted, he continues in this vein beyond the advent of Sapiens into domestication of animals, farming, shelter and clothing, and more. The end section briefly ponders whether or not humans are still evolving and if so, what that might look like. Finally, there’s a nice visual presentation of the chronology at the end.

The artwork is well done and does a nice job of conveying the information presented or going a bit beyond it, even if most of the illustrations are relatively small (I wouldn’t have minded a few pictures that has more space to work with).

Overall this is an excellent look at the topic for the age range, though a few quibbles. One is that there were several typos which I assume those will be fixed either before publication or in a second printing. The other is that sometimes it felt a few more modern views were glossed over. For instance, where agriculture began or the first big towns—there has been some questioning of older views on those that could have been covered. And finally, a few moments of narrative wonder might have added a lift here and there in terms of tone/style, such as describing the discovery of a particular hominid fossil rather than simply giving us the information. But really, these were quite small issues. Strongly recommended.

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This book is great a perfect introduction to human evolution for young children.
It packs in lots of information and is beautifully illustrated.
I shall be ordering several copies for the library,

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This looks really engaging for a young learner. I previewed it and am planning to read it with my homeschooled 6 year old. It’s so hard to find accurate, interesting, age-appropriate texts on this topic for young elementary kids, and this one looks like it’ll do really well.

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When We Became Humans by author Michael Bright is a fun and encouraging book for children! We loved reading this together. Would absolutely recommend.

Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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