Charles Darwin for younger readers

Just half a year from now, Simon & Schuster will publish my young readers edition of the most important scientific book ever written, a book that became a key foundation piece of modern biology, as well as a landmark in our understanding of the world in which we live.

I was twenty-three, studying English in graduate school, when I first read  Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. In the years that followed, as my nonfiction writing career took me deeper into writing science books for kids, I reread On the Origin of Species several times, alongside many more recent works on natural history and evolutionary biology. So once I’d published YA adaptations of books by Howard Zinn, Jared Diamond, and others, it was perhaps inevitable that I’d think, “What about Darwin?” And here we are.

Bonus: The Young Readers Edition is not just for kids. It’s for anyone who’d like to read a shortened, streamlined, illustrated version of On the Origin of Species.

Discovering a new old favorite

Thanks to a recommendation from a friend with great taste in books, I recently read a book I would have loved when I was eleven or twelve. I’m happy to say that I loved it now. It is an old book, published in 1962, but it is one of my new favorites. It has been a much-loved book for many years. Maybe you have read it–or will look for it in your library now.

The book is The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, by Joan Aiken. It is an adventure set in a strange world that is both like and unlike the England of the early 19th century. A tunnel has been built under the English Channel (in real life this didn’t happen until late in the 20th century). Wolves have come through it to menace the English countryside. When three young people fight to save their home, what will the wolves do?

Know your rodents!

Ever since I wrote my 2009 book The Rodent Order for young readers, I’ve been fascinated with these active, adaptable mammals. This excellent chart can help you keep your rodents straight. See the full-sized chart online and find more of the artist’s work at https://albertonykus.deviantart.com/art/A-Guide-to-Rodent-Phylogeny-713227506

Copyright 2017 by Albertonykus

 

The eighth continent?

Does our world have seven continents, as most of us learn in school? Or could it have eight? Some geologists say “eight.”

The eighth continent is Zealandia, in the southern Pacific. About 94 percent of it us under fairly shallow water. The part that is above water is the island nation of New Zealand.

New discoveries show that Zealandia was closer to the ocean’s surface in the past than scientists used to think. It may have been a migration corridor–a way for plants and animals to reach the islands that are above the surface today.

Read more about Zealandia here: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/27/zealandia-drilling-reveals-secrets-of-sunken-lost-continent

 

The “opposite birds”

This big chunk of amber (fossilized tree sap) was found in the Southeast Asian country of Myanmar, or Burma. It contains traces of a bird that died after becoming stuck in the sap almost 100 million years ago. This is one of the best fossils ever found of the “opposite birds”–a group of birds that lived at the same time as the ancestors of our modern birds, but later became extinct. Who knows what other amazing fossils are waiting to be found?

Read more about it here.

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