Monday, June 09, 2008

Book Review: When Fish Got Feet, Sharks Got Teeth, and Bugs Began to Swarm

Have you read many children's books on the Silurian and and Devonian eras? Probably not as the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods are the real stars of children's non fiction. Hannah Bonner's When the Fish Got Feet, Sharks Got Teeth, and Bugs Began to Swarm: A Cartoon Prehistory of Life Long Before the Dinosaurs remedies Dino-dominance of the prehistory market with a focus on a fascinating period when the forests formed, dirt was born, and creatures scurried out from the seas.

Bonner begins with the oceans and what was happening 430 million years ago: "A warm, shallow sea covered most of North America. In it, zillions of animals were busy eating algae, plankton, and one another." Then we move to land--what was there first (lichens) and what "crawled out of the water to join the fun" (arthropods). Plants, bugs, and dirt come next, followed by a big change in the fish world--jaws. And you all know what comes with jaws, right? Sharks! (And other scary creatures like Placoderms and Acanthodians.) Forests (my favorite) and more bugs come next and, then, a section on "how we got feet."

Bonner's text is straightforward and lively--best suited for children ages seven through twelve. The central illustrations are realistic, but each two-page spread is accented with cartoons and silly jokes and sayings. ("Eek! There's a humongous fungus among us!") When the Fish Got Feet, Sharks Got Teeth, and Bugs Began to Swarm serves up prehistory with panache and fun. Highly recommended.*
*Is it a bad thing to admit I learned a lot from this book? I hope not, because it's true. Be kind: Literature is my field.
Other Blog Reviews:

Suite 101 (review by Elizabeth Yetter)
Greg Leitich Smith

And don't miss Cynthia Leitich Smith's interview with Hannah Bonner at Cynsations.
The Non Fiction Monday roundup is at Anastasia Suen's 6 Traits blog.