While playing outside in the snow, 5th grader Ronnie once again encounters Ms. Lernin. This time, a snow fort houses a compost container that serves as a time tunnel, via science magic, to the Cenozoic Era. This most recent (and current) era includes three periods (Paleogene, Neogene, and Quatenary) and multiple epochs. Ms. Lernin emphasizes that even she does not try to memorize the names of the epochs (and instead has a handy multi-color tattoo on her arm to serve as a “cheat sheet”).

Why should I read this book?

Along the way, Ronnie sees more examples of convergent evolution, leading to this exchange on page 42: Ronnie: “ And just because they evolve to look alike does not mean they’re now related, right?” Ms. Lernin: “Exactly! An animal can’t evolve into an unrelated kind of animal.” Starting on page 98, the subject of human evolution, perhaps the most controversial topic for some potential readers, is addressed. Recent DNA testing that shows 1-3% Neanderthal DNA in persons of European decent (and similar results showing up to 6% Denisovans DNA in persons of Asian decent) help to support the theory of human evolution with homo sapiens via homo erectus (who made use of tools and fire). The final portion of the book speaks of the current human-caused extinction of many species via fossil fuels, agricultural runoff, chemical pollution, methane from domestic animals in the food chain, and decomposing garbage."

Who is this book best for?

However, middle school students interested in an exploration of these topics will find the narrative and imagery to be engaging.

Challenge Rating: No Challenge

With many references to evolution, if there is any book likely to be challenged by parents from more theologically conservative backgrounds, this is the book.

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