HumanimalsLet me start this book rec­om­men­da­tion by say­ing that I believe every class­room, school library, and home should have this book on your shelves. As the author, Christo­pher Lloyd, states in the Fore­word, “the ances­tors of today’s indige­nous peo­ples lived close to wild ani­mals. They passed along cul­tur­al tra­di­tions of respect for ani­mals as the equals or some­times the supe­ri­ors of humans.” And then, he goes on to say, humans decid­ed we were smarter and bet­ter than ani­mals because moved to farms and cities and saw less of wild ani­mals, rais­ing them so we could make use of them.

Sci­en­tists decid­ed on “a sim­ple def­i­n­i­tion of humans that went like this: Humans are tool mak­ers. Mak­ing and using tools sets us apart from the rest of the ani­mal world.” If you’ve been fol­low­ing along with stud­ies of the nat­ur­al world, you’ll know that around about the 1960s, Jane Goodall com­mit­ted to study­ing chim­panzees for years, observ­ing that they did make and use tools. “Yikes! Our def­i­n­i­tion of humans was out the window.”

This thought­ful, obser­vant, and astound­ing book looks at all the ways that ani­mals are like humans: they live and work in com­mu­ni­ties, even liv­ing in cities, they like to have fun, they show off, and they love each oth­er. Hav­ing and dis­play­ing intel­li­gence is anoth­er group of behav­iors that make us more alike than dif­fer­ent: they are self-aware, we’ve rec­og­nized that many ani­mals com­mu­ni­cate with a lan­guage, and they can solve puzzles. 

Humanimals illustration
illus­tra­tion copy­right Mark Ruf­fle, from Human­i­mals, pub­lished by What on Earth Books, 2019

Spe­cif­ic exam­ples are giv­en to back up each of these asser­tions, tak­en direct­ly from the stud­ies of sci­en­tists who are pho­tographed and sum­ma­rized in the back mat­ter of the book, along with a con­cise glos­sary of terms that you’ll find use­ful for teach­ing. They’re easy to remember!

Who among your read­ers could resist this kind of detail? “It’s not just chimps who use tools. In Aus­tralia, black kites use a very dra­mat­ic one. They car­ry burn­ing sticks from for­est fires to near­by grass­lands and drop them to start fires in the grass. Why on earth would they do this? The answer is that it’s a super clever form of hunting. …”

Mark Ruf­fle’s illus­tra­tions are dra­mat­ic, get­ting to the heart of each page of infor­ma­tion, show­ing us pre­cise­ly what we prob­a­bly won­der about while we’re read­ing. What hap­pens when dol­phins are put in front of a mir­ror? When ravens roll down a snowy hill to have fun? When an octo­pus turns a dif­fer­ent col­or when it’s feel­ing aggres­sive? Ruf­fle cap­tures the behav­iors with the right touch­es of whim­sy and information.

This book is a page-turn­er in all of the right ways. It’s an immense­ly read­able non­fic­tion book that deliv­ers mem­o­rable infor­ma­tion. Best of all, I believe it will change hearts and minds about our rela­tion­ship to ani­mals, a nec­es­sary step in our evo­lu­tion if we’re engaged in sav­ing our planet.

Here Christo­pher Lloyd is inter­viewed on Sky News, shar­ing the way bees vote democratically.

Human­i­mal: Incred­i­ble Ways Ani­mals Are Just Like Us!
writ­ten by Christo­pher Lloyd
illus­trat­ed by Mark Ruffle
What on Earth Books, 2019
ISBN 978−1−912920−01−3

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments