Monday, January 10, 2011

Nonfiction Monday Review: Every Bone Tells a Story by Jill Rubalcaba and Peter Robertshaw

Found via: YALSA award for excellence in nonfiction nominee

Today's a big day in book-world: the ALA's Youth Media Awards are announced today at 7:45 AM Pacific Time - it's more than possible that you're reading this after the award winners have already been announced! Be sure to check out the link for a list of all the awards being presented today - the big ones are, of course, the Printz and Newbery awards, but 17 other awards are announced today as well, including the YALSA award for excellence in nonfiction for young adults. This review marks the completion of my goal to read and review all five of the nominees in that award, so I'm definitely excited to see which of these worthy titles win!

Every Bone Tells a Story: Hominin Discoveries, Deductions, and DebatesEvery Bone Tells a Story looks at four significant discoveries of ancient bodies, and what these bodies can tell us about how Earth and humans have evolved over millions of years.

Each discovery is given its own chapter, and each chapter is divided into the same four sections: Discovery, Deductions, Debates and Further Reading. Additionally, there's also a page or so of speculation opening the chapter, presenting a possible account of how the person died.

Turkana Boy                                                           Wikipedia
But that doesn't make the book repetitive - each chapter includes unique information, not only about the discovery in question, but about archeology in general. For example, in the first chapter on Turkana Boy, it's mentioned that scientists from all different fields work to come to conclusions about the discovery, however it's in the next chapter on Lapedo Child that we actually get detailed descriptions of four different types of scientists who contribute, from paleopathologists who study skeletons for signs of disease, to archaeozoologists who study animal remains to determine human/animal relationships. I had no idea so many different sciences were involved in archeology! As Rubalcaba and Robertshaw point out, archeology is definitely not about tomb raiding and bull whips.

The text is simple and straight forward, making this title accessible to a wide range of readers. Perhaps my favorite part of the book were the debates section of each discovery, just for the wide range of debates presented. Sometimes they're academic and scientific debates - did neanderthals and early humans co-exist enough to inter-breed? When did true language develop? But in the case of Kennewick man, serious ethical debates arose about the possibility of his identity as a Native American, and a little bit of the history of European settlers desecrating the remains of Native Americans and the ongoing struggle many Native tribes are facing to ensure the bones of their ancestors are treated with the proper respect.

My other reviews for YALSA nonfiction nominees:

2010 was an excellent year for nonfiction. I'm so happy I got involved with Nonfiction Monday as it has really encouraged me to seek out nonfiction and gives me a constant source of new nonfiction recommendations.

As for award predictions...I'm usually terrible at these, but I'll take a stab this time. It's going to be either Every Bone Tells a Story or They Called Themselves the K.K.K., but I think my favorite book of this list is The Dark Game. However since my favorites rarely actually win the big awards, we'll see what happens.

Nonfiction enthusiasts should also be on the lookout for the announcement of the Sibert medal, which is for informational books for audiences birth through 14.

This week's Nonfiction Monday is hosted by Tales from the Rushmore Kid. Be sure to stop by to check out the other great nonfiction highlighted this week!
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Alex said...

I have been torn over the Non-Fiction nominees. Every Bone Tells a Story sounds so like a book that would interest me especially since I grow up around this stuff (my dad worked in the American Museum of Natural History) On the other hand, the KKK book by Susan Bartoletti is also well done. I used her book on the Hitler Youth and found it very informative. Then again Janis Joplin....
I am so glad I am not on the decision committee.
Thanks for this and all the other great reviews.

Playing by the book said...

Ahh... your prediction skills still need a little work it would seem ;-) Still, I love the sound of this book, especially the bit about when language evoloved (my background is linguistics). Prize winner or not, I'll be looking out for this thanks to reading your review.

Angela Craft said...

Playing by the book: I know, I'm so terrible! On the other hand, two of my favorite books won the Schneider award (Five Flavors of Dumb) and the Printz itself, so I'm feeling good about those two.

Linguistics is totally fascinating (I took a few courses in college). Every Bone... goes into the part of the brain necessary for language and how/when it may have evolved, as well as when we went from having distinct words to forming full sentences and grammar. There's still plenty of room in there for exploration, but I think it's an excellent introduction for younger readers, especially if they've never questioned where language comes from before.

Anonymous said...

This year I want to bring more non-fiction to my kid book club and this one would be a good choice. Thanks for for the review, I will be sure to get the book.

Stacey said...

I was so glad to read your comment over at my blog! And yes- I plan to write much more about my adventures writing with my daughter. I've spent so much time writing about her that I guess it's time to include her! Oh, and by the way, I didn't make any predictions on my blog but I was super wrong too!

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