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Evolution Honored as the Best Canadian Science Book for Young Readers!

by Daniel Loxton, Sep 15 2011
Daniel Loxton's Evolution book for kids is the winner of the 2011 Lane Anderson Award for Best Science Book for Young Readers.

Wow—what a couple of days! I’m very proud to be able to say that my Junior Skeptic-based children’s book Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be took home the national Lane Anderson Award as the best Canadian science book for young readers at an award dinner in Toronto last night. The win was reported today by the National Post, the Vancouver Sun, Quill & Quire, the Canadian Children’s Book Center and other media.

This is an astonishing honor, for which I express my deepest thanks to the Fitzhenry Family Foundation. I cannot possibly express how much this means to me, and to everyone at the Skeptics Society. As an educational nonprofit organization, the Skeptics Society gathers folks who care—really care in our marrow—about sharing our love of science. With the creation of Junior Skeptic over 10 years ago, the Skeptics Society made a sustained commitment to science and critical thinking outreach for children—a commitment in which the Skeptics Society remains a trailblazer among skeptical organizations.

I would like to thank the Fitzhenry Family Foundation for the powerful encouragement this award represents. I’d also like to thank (and congratulate!) Evolution‘s publisher, Kids Can Press, for embracing this book and throwing their full weight behind its quality and its wide distribution. My deepest thanks as well to Pat Linse for supporting Evolution as its Producer during its long road to publication; to Michael Shermer for seeing in the first place that a clear, simple primer on evolution for kids was still something the world needed; to the donors who support the ongoing work of Junior Skeptic and the Skeptics Society; and to editor Valerie Wyatt, illustrator Jim W. W. Smith, and designer Julia Naimska, whose work was so essential to achieving Evolution‘s level of polish. Finally, I’d like to thank my wife Cheryl and my family for the sacrifices this long road required.

We’ve done some good here, folks. Thank you. Thank you all.

Too Hot for the USA?

Last night’s Lane Anderson Award revelation was an amazing honor. It also came as a staggering coincidence, capping what was without question the most frenzied press in the lifetime of the book, or indeed in my career. Yesterday, the Globe and Mail (arguably Canada’s most prestigious newspaper) carried columnist Tom Hawthorn’s lighthearted story on Evolution and Junior Skeptic, running under the headline “Children’s book too hot for U.S. publishers wins accolades, prize nominations here.” The online version of this story has gone totally ballistic. As of this writing, it has been tweeted 572 times (including once by Roger Ebert), and shared on Facebook by over 4000 people. It has 793 comments. I’ve been fielding press ever since.

All this attention speaks to an unease about the state of understanding of biology in the US, but also to a passion for education. People care whether the children of America are given the chance to appreciate, in a deep way, the central truth about the history of life on Earth.

Can it really be that a mild children’s book about fundamental biology is “too hot” for America? I’ll discuss this topic more in the coming days, but I’d like to touch on it briefly here. It’s important to realize that most of the publishing professionals I dealt with in the US were lovely and encouraging. They all said “no,” but some recommended smaller, artier presses they felt might consider Evolution. It’s likely that Evolution would eventually have found a home in the US (which is, after all, the country that took us to the Moon!), but we struck out consistently for quite a while. This was surprising, I felt, given that we were pounding the pavement during the lead-up to the 150th anniversary of Darwin’s Origin of Species (celebrated in 2009). Evolution was an attractive, almost ready-made package: already written, illustrated, and vetted to the same quality that the Lane Anderson Award Jury described as a “tour-de-force of science writing”—ready to become what the (US) National Science Teachers Association recommends as a book that “complies with the ideas set forth about evolution by the National Science Education Standards and fills a gap in books about evolution for this age group.” We were even willing to let it go cheap, just to get the information into the hands of kids—and with a guaranteed sale (1000 copies!) and marketing support from Skeptic to sweeten the pot. Despite all that, some of America’s top children’s publishing professionals rejected Evolution, some citing concerns that it was too controversial, too much of “a tough sell,” or (“in today’s climate”) too likely to find needed distribution channels closed.

Many people have reacted badly to hearing this. As children’s author Helaine Becker (now revealed as one of the Lane Anderson Award Jurors) blogged last night, 

As a born-and-bred Yank, I’m appalled by this thoroughly chickenshit (a well-known scientific term) behavior on the part of my fellow Americans. Book people should know better. Forgive the book-related pun, but book people should  show some spine. Yes, I know, the book biz is struggling, publishers need to feel certain that a book will make money. But really—you don’t think there’s a big enough market to support a terrific science book? Puh-leeze.

It was certainly frustrating to knock on cold doors, but I am sympathetic to publishers. As Becker notes, it’s a tough time for book producers, and they need to work hard to mitigate risk. Publishers face the on the ground reality that almost half of American adults—many of them reviewers, librarians, booksellers, or teachers—believe that evolution did not happen at all.

So, reluctant as they may be, I don’t see American publishers as villains—but I do see the wonderful people at Kids Can Press as heroes!

When we turned to Canadian publishers, we aimed straight for the top—and hit a home run on the very first swing. Kids Can Press, the largest publisher of children’s books in Canada (owned by media giant Corus) is a big player that works in the same tumultuous times and with the same corporate concerns as other large publishing houses. Nonetheless, Kids Can Press embraced Evolution, warmly and immediately. They stood behind it—bracing for controversy, but not afraid of it—and gave their full support to the idea that it should embody the best of current scientific knowledge, without apology and without compromise. With no end of encouragement and no hint of interference, KCP (and especially the wise and brilliant Valerie Wyatt) pressed for even greater care and accuracy.

But the folks at Kids Can aren’t the only heroes in this story. What I find most moving about this experience is that those New York publishers were, I think, wrong in an important respect. This uncontroversial book about uncontroversial science was embraced by readers, librarians, and booksellers of many faith traditions and of none—especially in Canada, but many in the US as well. Could it be that we underestimate regular Canadians and Americans?

For me, the real test—the moment when I found myself holding my breath—was Evolution‘s nomination for the Ontario Library Association’s Silver Birch Award (which I blogged about here). That award went in the end to a book written by Val Wyatt, but the nomination made Evolution—the book, and the topic—part of the massive Forest of Reading program promoted widely throughout Canada’s largest public school and public library systems. If there was a moment for controversy, that was it. But no controversy came, explained the Executive Director of the Ontario Library Association to a reporter last week. “We always get [complaints] about some of the books, but this was not one of them,” quoted Victoria’s Times Colonist newspaper.

What does all that mean? I don’t know—not in a larger sense—but I’ll tell you what it means to me. It means that I owe my biggest thanks and most profound admiration to the awesome, open-minded, astonishing kids and families of North America. A toast to every one of you!

Like Daniel Loxton’s work? Read more in the pages of Skeptic magazine. Subscribe today in print or digitally!

30 Responses to “Evolution Honored as the Best Canadian Science Book for Young Readers!”

  1. James & Rebecca Hammond says:

    This is wonderful! Congratulations on your award wins and publicity.

  2. steelsheen11b says:

    Congratulation you earned this honor by creating a very good book. I have given it to friends kids to get them thinking about the science of evolution.

    Good job with the Junior Skeptic articles. They are well written and researched.

  3. Trimegistus says:

    Congratulations to Mr. Loxton!

  4. Kylie Sturgess says:

    Very proud of you (and all who helped make the book such a success – well done Kids Can Press) :)

  5. John Greg says:

    Congrats Mr. L.

  6. Scott Drouin says:

    And that’s why I like living in Canada. Congrats Mr. Loxton!

  7. Beelzebud says:

    Hey I think it’s something everyone will agree about here! ;)


  8. Paul Wakfer says:

    I think this difference is because there are far fewer religious fundamentalists per capita, and others who do not accept evolution, in Canada than in the US.

    BTW, I’m Canadian too (Ontario) and always appalled to hear all the religious radio stations in the US as I journey back and forth to my US wife’s Arizona residence yearly.

    • tmac57 says:

      Try to find an NPR station when you can. That’s my suggestion.Podcasts and music on an IPOD are good too!

  9. Somite says:

    Congratulations. Well earned.

  10. Sheila says:

    I don’t think evolution has ever been controversial in Canada. So you’re just singing to the choir.

    • tmac57 says:

      Does that go for math and history too? No need for all those educational materials because Canadians are born knowing those things right?

    • Beelzebud says:

      LOL disregard my statement up-thread. I forgot this was the internet, where human decency is tossed out the window.

    • Sheila says:

      What the hell are you talking about tmac57? Are you talking about how we kicked your asses in 1812? How we chased you back to the white house and burnt it? Did you ever wonder why your white house is white? Yeah you won’t find that in any American history book, LOL.

      • John Greg says:


        tmac57’s trying to point out that writing a book about evolution, and discussing it, is not singing to the choir, it is a way of disseminating and furthering education of, and awareness and understanding of, evolution for young folks who may or may not have been exposed to it.

        Either you are simply too stupid to understand that, or your diction and/or sentence construction and/or ideation is weak and flimsy.

        Do you understand what I am saying? Or will this simply bring forth yet another of your bombastic idiotic insults?

      • John Greg says:

        Really, Sheila, what is it with you? Almost all of your posts are empty pieces of rhetoric insulting anyone and everyone who doesn’t share your point of view.

        Are you just an angry troll? Or do you really have something to say?

        If you have something meaningful to say, why not actually say it instead of just pissing on everyone?

      • John Greg says:


        “Are you talking about how we kicked your asses in 1812? How we chased you back to the white house and burnt it? Did you ever wonder why your white house is white?”

        What on the ever-loving Earth does that have to do with anything in this thread?

        Please explain yourself.

      • Sheila says:

        Your kidding me right John? I don’t know a kid around here who is religious or not that hasn’t been to the dinosaur museum and regardless of what they are taught at home, can see for themselves the true evidence of dinosaurs and all the information that comes with that fact.
        But somehow you think Canadian children have not been exposed to evolution? Well maybe in your country they haven’t been. That a lot of dinosaurs were in fact birds was taught in paleo last year in grade 10. So who exactly needs this book the most?

      • Sheila says:

        I doubt that our math program is the same and I’m positive our history is not the same. Your books have made it into our schools before when one stated the first man in space was an American. It was the teacher who had to ask her students if they thought anything was wrong with this. It was Yuri Gagarin, a Russian. So I’m only pointing out that you have a different history than ours, that’s all. I’m pretty sure you’ve never heard about 1812 the same way I did.

      • Beelzebud says:

        That’s odd because I was educated during the cold war, in an American public school, and we were taught that Yuri Gagarin was the first human in space, and that Alan Shepard was the first American in space.

        Stop buying cheap text books that others have thrown away for having bad information. Not sure what else to tell you.

      • Sheila says:

        Those cheap textbooks came from the USA.

      • John Greg says:

        I’m a Canadian.

        Having a wide range of books with different content is a win. Every author has a different yet valid approach, style, content, and so forth. Variety is a positive thing. I do not understand why you are so critical of it.

        Kids in rural areas, of which Canada is amply supplied, often cannot make it to a good museum. Getting to a library, especially a school library, is usually much easier.

        Also, there are not all that many good museums in Canada. Museums are expensive to build, operate, and supply. Only the larger Canadian cities have really good dinosaur displays.

        Daniel’s book is a delight — and so far as I am aware, there are very few good books covering evolution for kids. Condemning it simply because it is not the only dinosaur/evolution book in existence, or because Canada has some good dinosaur museums is nothing short of ludicrous.

      • Sheila says:

        If you really are a canadian you would know what they are teaching in schools. Apparently you don’t. There are literally hundreds of books just like this one. And paleo classes teach the latest information. So why would I care if there is one more book? Was it a delight for you because you’re simple minded and like reading children’s books?

      • gdave says:

        Ok, this thread hasn’t just been derailed, it’s a massive train wreck. But this just too silly for me to resist.

        I’m an American, and in my American history books, I, in fact, did learn about the War of 1812, how the American Army burned the Canadian Houses of Parliament in the Battle of York, and how the British (not Canadian) Army burned the White House and much of Washington, D.C., in retaliation, in the Battle of Washington. This last bit is actually quite well known in America, particularly the story of First Lady Dolley Madison’s rescue of a portrait of George Washington as the British troops closed in. I also learned that the burning and reconstruction is not why it is referred to as the White House – the first documented mention of it as such dates to 1811, three years before it was burned in 1814.

        I further learned that the war was more or less a draw. The U.S. was able to claim victory by fighting the mighty British Empire to a standstill and forcing a negotiated peace, with fairly reasonable terms considering the power imbalance. The British were able to claim a victory with the burning of Washington and a treaty that gave them better terms. Both sides actually accomplished most of their war aims. Not exactly an ass-kicking, by either side.

        Of course, what you learned in Canada may very well differ from the above, but what any of this has to do with Daniel Loxton’s new book, I have no idea.

      • Beelzebud says:

        That’s going to leave a mark.

  11. Kenn says:

    Why don’t you self publish?

  12. David Kilby says:

    Congratulations! You deserve it – I love this book. One big step toward making basic science not “too controversial” for US audiences.

  13. Ron Francis says:

    Congratulations Daniel!

    I own two copies already – one for home and one for school (in my science classroom). I plan on buying more and passing them on.