Grandmother Fish: A Child's First Book of Evolution

Episode #8

Grandmother Fish: A Child’s First Book of Evolution

Written by Jonathan Tweet

Illustrated by Karen Lewis

Read with Permission By

Jonathan Tweet and Karen Lewis 


Evolution, Science, Prehistoric, Biology, Family.


3 – 6 years


“Grandmother Fish takes children and adults through the history of life on our planet and explains how we are all connected.”

Teaching Tips

Great for any age or time of day, but I usually read this in the afternoon, before playtime, or an activity.

We often neglect our preschool science centers. This book is a science lesson without the cleanup. To me, it’s beautifully written, beautifully illustrated, and entertaining, and about science. When do we ever get something that cool?!?!

Four- and five-year-olds loved it!

I didn’t have a chance to share it with a three-year-old classroom, but I shared it with a two-year-old class who went on making the hooting sound from the story for the rest of the day.

Pace yourself. When you come to a question (i.e., can you wiggle, can you hoot, can you chomp, etc.), consider setting the book down and acting out the movements and sounds so the class can do the same. Give yourself a big hug when Grandmother Mammal cuddles her babies. Do not let them chomp their teeth together when you get to that part—use your hands so they can imitate the chomping motion.

When I came to a page with multiple graphics, I slowly dragged my finger, stopping at each graphic, and said the name of each animal. This can help draw young readers back into the story and prepare them to take part in the next sound or motion.

Activity Idea

Personally, I never did a follow-up activity, since the book can be so interactive if you’re not in a hurry, but the book also supports quantifying needs if your lessonplan calls for it. For example, how many could make the chomping motion with their hands? How many could crawl, hoot, etc?  That should be sufficient, but if you wanted to expand on the evolution concept, here’s one idea:

Ask the child to select two primary colors (Red, Yellow, and Blue). Then, ask them to make a prediction on what color may result by mixing them together.

Red + Blue = Purple.

Red + Yellow = Orange.

Blue + Yellow = Green.

It could make a nice Today I Learned spread, in case your school works on Student Portfolios throughout the year.

Show Notes

I discovered Grandmother Fish quite by accident and bought the book before knowing much about it (which rarely works out in my favor). I visited the author’s website, and wouldn’t you know it—they had a free PDF version available. I read it and it was perfect! I’m so used to leaving a bookstore with blurred vision before finding two, maybe three books if I’m lucky, that I’d like to share.

I contacted the author, Jonathan Tweet, and heard back from him straight away. Wouldn’t it be great if it was always that easy? Close to a year later, I sent Jonathan and the illustrator, Karen Lewis, the finished episode. I remember feeling highly dissatisfied with the final product, but Jonathan helped bolster my confidence, and today, Grandmother Fish may be my favorite episode from 2017.

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