How to Build a Human In Seven Evolutionary Steps

How To Build a Human cover
How to Build a Human in Seven Evolutionary Steps by Pamela S. Turner. Art by John Gurche

By Pamela S. Turner
Art by John Gurche
Charlesbridge, 2022
166 pages

Age 11 and older

This entertaining, informative, accessible account about human evolution starts with an explanation of natural selection and returns to it throughout as it touches on major milestones in the evolution of hominins, including which traits, behaviors, and skills allowed them—us—to continue to survive and evolve. The seven steps referenced in the title are chronicled in individual chapters titled “We Stand Up (ability to walk upright), “We Smash Rocks” (using tools), “We Get Swelled Heads” (larger brain development), “We Take a Hike” (migration), “We Invent Barbecue” (use of fire), “We Start Talking (and Never Shut Up)” (language development), and “We Become Storytellers” (complex use of language/ imagination).  There is humor throughout the inviting narrative, including in occasional footnotes, but the overall sense is one of inclusivity. We are all homo sapiens after all; nothing divides us from one another on an evolutionary scale, and to see images of handprints made by homo sapiens 40,000 years ago from locations around the world is to understand this is also a very human scale: “We are one.” Sharing insight into our evolutionary past, this clear, cogent, fascinating work concludes with ample end matter, starting with a substantial author’s note about race being a social construct, not biological reality, even as racism and racial bias are very real results of that construct. More about evolution, a glossary, timeline, and resources are also provided. Visual material includes photographs of artifacts, drawings and other artistic and scientific renderings of various species of hominins. ©2022 Cooperative Children’s Book Center