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Middle-school librarians Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan prove that two heads are better than one when it comes to discussing YA and children's books

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Monday, December 10, 2012 9:27 am
The Skull in the Rock by Lee R. Berger & Marc Aronson
Posted by: Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan

Lynn:  Aronson’s opening is a wonderful hook.  “Dad, I found a fossil,” says 9-year-old Matthew Berger to his anthropologist father.  In The Skull in the Rock:  How a Scientist, a Boy, and Google Earth Opened a New Window on Human Origins (National Geographic 2012).  Lee assumed Matt’s find was a common bone like an antelope but the bone was something really special indeed.  The bone turned out to be a clavicle belonging to an entirely new species and an important and exciting new discovery in human evolution.

Aronson moves from this opening to a quick and fascinating biography of the Indiana Jones type Berger and then jumps back to an important realization and new approach that led Berger and his son to be walking in the area in the first place.  Using Google Earth, Berger began looking at familiar areas from a new perspective and looking carefully and thoughtfully at familiar scenes.  He then follows the steps of the discovery, explaining with outstanding clarity the current processes, methods and theories of this complex subject.   photographs, a timeline, glossary and Suggestions for Further Reading round out a book that is as carefully written and documented as it is pure fun to read.  Of special interest is the concluding chapter, What If Lee Is All Wrong About Sediba? that challenges the reader to observe and question and keep exploring.

Slim, enticing and totally accessible, this is a book that will open eyes to the world around us and, perhaps, inspire a whole new generation of “Indies.”

Cindy: “Observe, notice, act, change the world: that is what Lee’s childhood taught him.” How can you not love a book for youth that encourages positive action? Young readers will be hooked by the initial discovery by the 9-year-old son, Matthew, and then by the additional blasts from the past that show how Matthew’s dad became interested in science and activism at an early age. How many of you, dear readers, have photos of you as a kid with fossil collections or as a high schooler with your science projects?

This book follows the approach of Aronson’s nonfiction work. History is not “done.” Science doesn’t have all of the answers. Learning is a process. It builds upon the past but we can all still contribute to finding new information–to adding a layer to the strata of knowledge and understanding.

The authors have set up a website called Scimania that will continue to report new fossil findings and research for students to expand the information in The Skull in the Rock. It promises to serve as a conduit of sorts between the researchers in the field and the students. There are blogs that will allow students to post questions, or perhaps, even their own discoveries.

Common Core Connections:

National Geographic has a teacher’s guide for this book that has a whole list of activities followed by a list of their connections to the Common Core Standards. Take a look and have your students “observe, notice, act, and perhaps, just perhaps, change the world.”

You can find more Nonfiction Monday blog posts this week at Wrapped In Foil.

One Response to “The Skull in the Rock by Lee R. Berger & Marc Aronson”
  1. Roberta Says:

    I heard about this find, and it is great to see Marc Aronson has written about it. It seems to hold some relevant lessons about life.

    Thanks for linking up with Nonfiction Monday today.


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