Pamela S. Turner

How to Build a Human: in Seven Evolutionary Steps

“Glints of fun light up a rock-sol­id dig into our Stone Age ancestry.”

Kirkus Reviews, starred review

How to Build a Human

About the Book

The epic sto­ry of our evo­lu­tion in sev­en steps!

How did we become who we are? With trade­mark wit, acclaimed sci­ence writer Pamela S. Turn­er breaks down human evo­lu­tion into the sev­en most impor­tant steps lead­ing to Homo sapi­ens. How, when, and why did we:

  1. stand up,
  2. smash rocks,
  3. get swelled heads,
  4. take a hike,
  5. invent bar­be­cue,
  6. start talk­ing (and nev­er shut up), and
  7. become sto­ry­tellers?

This fas­ci­nat­ing, wicked­ly fun­ny account of our evo­lu­tion­ary jour­ney turns sci­ence into an irre­sistible sto­ry. Vet­ted by experts at the Smith­so­ni­an’s Human Ori­gins Pro­gram, the book also fea­tures detailed por­traits by cel­e­brat­ed paleo-artist John Gurche that bring our ear­ly ances­tors to life.

Awards and Recognition

  • Amer­i­can Library Asso­ci­a­tion Notable Book
  • AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excel­lence in Sci­ence Books finalist
  • School Library Jour­nal Best of the Year
  • Kirkus Best Mid­dle Grade Books
  • The Horn Book Best of the Year
  • Junior Library Guild Selection
  • Nation­al Sci­ence Teach­ing Assn Out­stand­ing Sci­ence Trade Book
  • New York Pub­lic Library Best Books for Kids 2022
  • Chica­go Pub­lic Library Best Infor­ma­tion­al Books for Kids 2022
  • Evanston Pub­lic Library 101 Great Books for Kids 2022
  • SCBWI Gold­en Kite Non­fic­tion finalist
  • School Library Jour­nal starred review
  • The Horn Book starred review
  • Kirkus starred review
  • Book­list starred review
  • Ver­mont Gold­en Dome Book Award nominee
  •  Texas Topaz Non­fic­tion Read­ing List


Horn Book starred review  

“ ‘Evo­lu­tion is a jour­ney, not a des­ti­na­tion.’ The paths and branch­es of human evo­lu­tion, from our pri­mate ances­tors to Homo sapi­ens, are thor­ough­ly covered…Turner is a con­sum­mate sto­ry­teller: her steady pace through mil­lions of years of the human evo­lu­tion­ary line is buoyed by an amused stance, joke-filled foot­notes, well-timed shifts into sec­ond per­son, and mod­ern-day analo­gies attuned to a mid­dle-grade audi­ence. At the same time, she is metic­u­lous in empha­siz­ing the main under­ly­ing con­cepts of evo­lu­tion­ary sci­ence: her terms are pre­cise, her rep­re­sen­ta­tions of sci­en­tif­ic knowl­edge clear­ly dif­fer­en­ti­ate between hypoth­e­sis and estab­lished fact, and she con­fronts mis­con­cep­tions head on (see espe­cial­ly a pow­er­ful state­ment about the unsci­en­tif­ic con­struct of race: ‘race is a cul­tur­al con­struct, not a bio­log­i­cal reality’).”

Kirkus Reviews starred review

“A prob­ing look into what fos­sil evi­dence and oth­er sci­en­tif­ic dis­cov­er­ies tell us about our hominid pre­de­ces­sors … [Turn­er details] sev­en water­shed moments, begin­ning with ‘Step One: We Stand Up.’ Also cov­ered are: the emer­gence of tool­mak­ing; the devel­op­ment of larg­er and more com­plex brains; the migra­tion of Homo erec­tus out of Africa; the shift from raw to cooked foods; the evo­lu­tion of human lan­guage; and the advent of sto­ry­telling. Using a dis­arm­ing nar­ra­tive non­fic­tion style, the text clear­ly explains the sig­nif­i­cance of each anatom­i­cal or behav­ioral change and paints a fas­ci­nat­ing pic­ture of life on Earth … glints of fun light up a rock-sol­id dig into our Stone Age ancestry.”

Book­list starred review

“This fas­ci­nat­ing, invit­ing, and engag­ing­ly writ­ten vol­ume is ide­al for report-writ­ing tweens and teens and those inter­est­ed in biol­o­gy and his­to­ry.…  Every page includes some tid­bit that will be new to non­ex­pert read­ers, such as why evo­lu­tion caused peo­ple on the Indone­sian island of Flo­res to be small but Flo­res lizards to be extra large; what col­or a polar bear–grizzly bear hybrid is; how walk­ing upright helps keep us cool; what per­cent­age of humans have no Nean­derthal genes (spoil­er: it’s zero!). ..Through­out, Gurche’s sepia-toned like­ness­es of oth­er Hominids and col­or pho­tos of ancient arti­facts enliv­en the already live­ly text. Exten­sive back matter—in-depth notes, bib­li­og­ra­phy, and index—add to the val­ue. A must for sci­ence shelves.”

School Library Jour­nal starred review

“This enter­tain­ing and infor­ma­tive look at the his­to­ry of human evo­lu­tion fol­lows our hominid pre­de­ces­sors through­out his­to­ry. Chap­ters detail major mile­stones in evo­lu­tion, includ­ing how our ances­tors learned to walk, use fire, and talk to one anoth­er. The tone is fac­tu­al and con­ver­sa­tion­al, and humor­ous foot­notes will keep mid­dle grade read­ers engaged…The abil­i­ty to con­vey detailed and well-researched infor­ma­tion in a riv­et­ing nar­ra­tive style is the great­est strength of this title…VERDICT: This well-researched account of human evo­lu­tion is a first pur­chase for library collections.”

How to Build a Human

art by John Gurche
Charles­bridge Pub­lish­ing
April 12, 2022
ISBN 978–1623542504

Signed Copies: My local book­seller, Mrs. Dal­loway’s, will let me know about signed book requests and mail the books any­where in the U.S. Please indi­cate you would like your copy signed in the “com­ment” sec­tion when you check out. Click to order: Mrs. Dal­loway’s Bookstore

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