November 21, 2017

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A Dog in the Cave: The Wolves Who Made Us Human by Kay Frydenborg | SLJ Review

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redstarFRYDENBORG, Kay. A Dog in the Cave: The Wolves Who Made Us Human. 256p. bibliog. further reading. glossary. index. notes. photos. websites. HMH. Mar. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780544286566.

Gr 7 Up –It may come as no surprise that our canine companions descended from wolves, but this title describes a coevolution and cooperation with humans that may have begun much earlier than scientists once estimated. The 1994 discovery and carbon dating of tracks of a wolflike dog and a boy in France’s Chauvet Cave reveal that humans and dog companions walked together 26,000 years ago. This is an unfolding story, leading readers through the basics of evolutionary science and how findings lead to anthropological theories. The variations in breeds today are explained in terms of artificial vs. natural selection. American paleoanthropologist Pat Shipman suggests that wolves may have helped modern human ancestors survive the Paleolithic era, when Neanderthals could not, by teaching humans how to delegate pack responsibilities of protection, scouting, and babysitting. In turn, wolves learned to follow a human’s gaze. The investigative puzzle emphasizes the importance of asking questions and collaborating with scientists from other fields to come up with answers. Color-blocked pages offer explanations of scientific processes, profile field-related tools, and relay asides about canine fanciers and 9/11 rescue dogs. The latter part of the book focuses on the intelligence, personality, and trainability of dogs and on current research on a shared community of disease-preventing microbes that shine a positive light on “sloppy dog kisses.” VERDICT This is narrative nonfiction at its best—high interest and engaging, with meaty interdisciplinary science exploration. A top choice for tweens and teens.–Vicki Reutter, State University of New York at Cortland

This review was published in the School Library Journal May 2017 issue.

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