Let 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.
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