The 1974 discovery of the fossilized partial skeleton of a small-brained primate who apparently walked upright 3.2 million years ago in what is now Ethiopia significantly changed accepted theories about human origins. Step by step, Thimmesh presents the questions the newly discovered bones raised and how they were answered. Using interviews and quotations from the specialists involved, she explains the work of biological and paleoanthropologists, geochronologists, and paleo-artists and shows how the hominid find now known as Lucy (or Dinkenesh, “beautiful one”) helped turn the human family tree into something more like a bush. Sidebars clarify important concepts: hominids, evolution, fossilization, the scientific method (and its use of the word “theory”) and the process of making plaster casts. Illustrations include photographs from the discovery, a map and helpful diagrams and pictures of comparative skeletal parts and of a life-sized model. Extensive research, clear organization and writing, appropriate pacing for new ideas and intriguing graphics all contribute to this exceptionally accessible introduction to the mystery of human origins, timed to accompany Lucy’s six-year tour of U.S. museums. (glossary, sources, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-547-05199-4

Page Count: 64

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009


In this abridged and illustrated version of his Short History of Nearly Everything (2003), Bryson invites a younger crowd of seekers on a tour of time, space and science—from the Big Bang and the birth of the solar system to the growth and study of life on Earth. The single-topic spreads are adorned with cartoon portraits of scientists, explorers and (frequently) the author himself, which go with small nature photos and the occasional chart or cutaway view. Though occasionally subject to sweeping and dubious statements—“There’s no chance we could ever make a journey through the solar system”—Bryson makes a genial guide (“for you to be here now, trillions of drifting atoms had somehow to come together in a complicated and obliging manner to create you”), and readers with even a flicker of curiosity in their souls about Big Ideas will come away sharing his wonder at living in such a “fickle and eventful universe.” (index) (Nonfiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-385-73810-1

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2009


Remarking that ``nothing about the weather is very simple,'' Simon goes on to describe how the sun, atmosphere, earth's rotation, ground cover, altitude, pollution, and other factors influence it; briefly, he also tells how weather balloons gather information. Even for this outstanding author, it's a tough, complex topic, and he's not entirely successful in simplifying it; moreover, the import of the striking uncaptioned color photos here isn't always clear. One passage—``Cumulus clouds sometimes build up into towering masses called cumulus congestus, or swelling cumulus, which may turn into cumulonimbus clouds''—is superimposed on a blue-gray, cloud-covered landscape. But which kind of clouds are these? Another photo, in blue-black and white, shows what might be precipitation in the upper atmosphere, or rain falling on a darkened landscape, or...? Generally competent and certainly attractive, but not Simon's best. (Nonfiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-688-10546-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1993

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