Was evolution too risky for American publishers?

First aired on On the Island (19/9/11)


Daniel Loxton is a journalist and an award-winning author. His children's book, Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be, was recently awarded the Lane Anderson Award for the best science writing in Canada in the young-reader category. But this happy ending had a rocky start. Despite Loxton's credentials, not a single American publisher would take a chance on his book, because of the controversial subject material.

Loxton, the editor of "Junior Skeptic," the children's science section of Skeptic magazine, decided to write a book about evolution for kids (his book is aimed at ages 8-13) after a colleague, who is also a Scientific American columnist, "pointed out there was still a need for a simple, clear primer on evolution for kids." Loxton was up for the challenge and wrote a two-part feature for Skeptic magazine. "With that already written and illustrated, it just made sense to shop it around as a stand-alone book," Loxton explained to On the Island host Gregor Craigie.

While U.S. students come across snippets of the theory of evolution as early as Grade 1, in several curricula they aren't taught the fundamentals or the terminology until the eleventh grade. Loxton thinks this is ridiculous — and was confident his book would be a success because "most of the ideas within evolution and natural selection are easily accessible to young kids," he said. "The idea of deep time, of extinction, the idea that there is biological change over time, of relatedness, that all living things on Earth are related — these are things that are within reach for even a five-year-old."

However, American publishers disagreed, calling the book "risky" and saying it would be a difficult sell "in this current climate." While no publisher would directly tell Loxton they refused to publish it because they were afraid of the public's response to the content of the book, he believes that's why no one would bite. "You have to consider the on-the-ground reality for these American publishers," he said. "Half of American citizens don't think evolution happened. In the context of bookselling, that's half the librarians, half the teachers, half the booksellers..."

After several months, Loxton took his search north, where the book was immediately snapped up by Canadian children's publisher Kids Can Press. And he couldn't be happier. "I can see why publishers would be a little leery about risk," he said. "A company like Kids Can should be all the more applauded for doing the right thing."

EvolutionEvolution: How We and All living Things Came to Be
by Daniel Loxton

Buy this book at:
Save on Music, Books and Dvds at Indigo

"Evolution is the process that created the terrible teeth of Tyrannosaurus rex and the complex human brain, clever enough to understand the workings of nature. Young readers will learn how a British naturalist named Charles Darwin studied nature and developed his now-famous concepts of natural selection and survival of the fittest. And how modern-day science has added to our understanding of the theory of evolution.

Can something as complex and wondrous as the natural world be explained by a simple theory? The answer is yes, and now Evolution explains how in a way that makes it easy to understand..."

Read more at Kids Can Press.

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