Posts tagged ‘evolution’

TRIP THROUGH TIME

Time Taxi: Book One: Back to Your Beginning

Written by Bruce Boyce

Illustrated by Daniel Demirdjian

Timetaxi,pic

Jack and Jill (they hate their names) are bored twins on summer vacation who live in the suburbs. They are tired of reading, watching TV, playing video games and texting friends. When Jill gets a weird message on her cell phone with a picture of a taxi on Jack’s screen and an invitation to take a taxi ride, they are mystified. After a phone call to their dad who confirms that he knows about the taxi, they follow the yellow brick path down the road where the yellow taxi marked Timeless awaits them.

The driver named Numan, who is a cloud shape-shifter, explains that they are going to take a trip through time using a wormhole as a short cut. Here the twins will meet their ancestors and experience what life was like on earth before life was human. First stop is more than three billion years in the past when the moon was three times bigger and life consisted of slimy green forms on rocks. Their next stop takes them inside a small primitive fish named Astraspis diserata. Jack experiences life as an Ichthostega, a life form that has made the transition to land having both gills and lungs. Their journey proceeds through the evolution cycle to Dimetrodon and the ancestors of the dinosaurs. Then they arrive in the dinosaur age just before the meteor hits the earth destroying most of the planet. As they continue forward, Jack and Jill meet their mammal ancestors, Australopithecus, Homo erectus and the wild wolves that were tamed and taught men how to hunt for food. Now men could hunt for meat and their brain size increased dramatically allowing them to become superior. When the children and the taxi arrive home at last, they find an unexpected surprise on their doorstep.

This book is a fantastic way to teach evolution and history, while allowing students to experience a fantasy adventure at the same time. The reader can imagine herself inside these creatures as the twins go on their riding adventures. They probably won’t realize how much knowledge they are absorbing. Middle grade students should find the reading level comfortable, and the colorful illustrations are an added bonus. Highly recommended for teachers and librarians to add to their bookshelves. Lovers of fantasy, history, time travel and adventure ages eight and above should not miss this one!

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WEIRD AND WONDERFUL

Weird Animals: It Came From Planet Earth! Strange, Weird and Unusual Animals

By: Maya Lee Shye

 Weird Animals

This book is a fascinating study of the habitat and behavior of strange animals living on land, in the sea and up in the air on planet earth. Also unusual is its appeal to all ages from younger children through adults. The author describes more than thirty animals and provides a photograph of each. Some of these have been on earth for millions of years. That’s right, the Coelacanth is the oldest jawed fish still alive on our planet. This fish with eight hollow spine fins covered by tough scales acting like a coat of armor can grow up the six feet long and existed on earth 410 million years ago! The Tuatara is the last reptile that lived on earth as a contemporary of the dinosaurs 225 million years ago. They still exist on remote islands in the Pacific Ocean and some wildlife sanctuaries. The Tarsiers are primates with huge eyes that leap from tree to tree. They are carnivores who are probably the ancestors of two legged primates. The slow loris is a primitive monkey with a very large round head and eyes. Their arms and legs are of equal size. This southeastern Asia native also bites with a poisonous venom lethal to many humans.

Many animals have evolved with adaptations needed for their environment. There is an African Penguin native to the warm coast of Africa. These animals burrow in the ground to keep cool. Glands above the eyes high on their heads help them cool their bodies. The North Island Brown Kiwi is a bird that does not fly because its wings are tiny. The animal is the size of a chicken. Like a dog the kiwi bird uses its nose to find food. These animals live in underground burrows. The male sits on eggs in the nest, while the female goes out to hunt for food. Their eggs are the largest known bird eggs. New Zealand has adopted this bird as their national symbol. Giant Tortoises living in the Galapagos Islands can weigh up to 600 pounds so their bodies have been adapted to move slowly and burn few calories. In fact, they can go as long as one year without eating or drinking anything!

There are many animals with adaptations that make them look strange. The Glass Frog  lives in Venezuela and central America. Its body is translucent so that it is totally invisible to predators. The Shoebill is a bird that lives in the swamps of east Africa. It is related to the stork, but its bill looks like a giant shoe. This cartoon like character spends most of its time standing silently along the water, but can fly at low altitude. When it does fly, it usually flies in a group that chatters. Archaeologists have found drawings of this bird in ancient Egyptian art. The Okapi is a forest giraffe that has black and white legs like a zebra. Its tongue is so long that it can wash its ears! One animal may someday help us find a cure for cancer. The Naked Mole Rat lives in tunnels on the desert coast of East Africa. This animal uses little oxygen and has no hair. It does not feel pain and appears to be resistant to cancer. Its life span is longer than any other mammal of comparable size. Another oddity is that these animals are eusocial like bees. One female is designated queen; all the other rats will work to sustain the colony.

More than thirty animals are discussed in this book. The work may serve as a springboard for analysis, discussion, comparison and evaluation of topics in  life science, geography, evolution and environment. I recommend it as a valuable learning reference tool for adults and children of all ages.

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