Book Review by Jim Burklo:
STONES & BONES
an illustrated children’s book by Char Matejovsky – illustrated by Robaire Ream
Polebridge Press, Santa Rosa: 2007
The Jesus Seminar’s publishing house, Polebridge, has just produced something that one might not expect, at first glance, to belong on its booklist. “Stones & Bones” is a winsomely-illustrated children’s book about evolution, written by Char Matejovsky, the widow of Bob Funk, the founder of the Jesus Seminar. She directs Polebridge Press and is on the board of Westar Institute. This little book rhymes out the story of evolution, with pictures of Charles Darwin in his study, reading the book aloud to what appear to be his grandchildren. The room is visited by dinosaurs, early mammals, and the ancestors of Homo Sapiens as the pages follow the geologic eras. The last page shows the little girl asleep in Darwin’s lap, with the older boy on the floor before him studying a model of DNA. Included in the book is a CD of a children’s choir singing the words of the book to a tune that Matejovsky wrote. She’s a prize-winning children’s music composer.
While there is no commentary in the book to suggest it, there’s little doubt that “Stones & Bones” is a response to “creationism” and to “intelligent design”. The book makes no religious references in its words or in its illustrations. But the fact that it is published by Polebridge speaks (adult) volumes about its purpose, which apparently is to counteract the religious right’s attempts to discredit the theory of evolution in the public schools and in the wider culture. I wonder whether the religious focus of the publisher will affect the ability of “Stones & Bones” to make its way into public school libraries.
Hopefully, the librarians will fail to check the pedigree of Polebridge, and simply evaluate the book on its own terms. It’s a really good children’s book, with a lively, quick overview of its subject matter. Its accompanying website, http://stonesandbonesbook.com, is itself a great teaching resource for kids. “Stones & Bones” looks like a bedtime story book for a preschooler, but its content is more appropriate for 4th graders. The language is a couple of levels above that of the little girl in Darwin’s lap. But the kind expression on Darwin’s face, as he watches the little girl sleep, makes up for it. You can’t help closing the book with a warm spot in your heart for the scientist who made evolution a household word.