My writer friend and author Charlotte Bennardo has a debut MG book series coming out soon. The book is beautifully illustrated by Cathy Thole-Daniels. Book one is called EVOLUTION REVOLUTION: SIMPLE MACHINES, and explores the notion that animals are a lot smarter than we might think. Here’s Charlotte to tell us about the science behind the story.
Animals outwitting humans has always been a popular science fiction story premise.
But could it ever happen?
National Geographic, the Smithsonian, scientists, and many experts in animal behavior know that animals learn. They cite studies and tests and brain sizes.
All I had to do to be convinced that animals were so much smarter than being taught to ‘sit’ and ‘fetch’ was watch a BBC television program which showed a squirrel solving and overcoming increasingly difficult obstacles and puzzles to get to a supply of nuts. They don’t give up until they have conquered the puzzle, no matter how long it takes. (One squirrel spent over a month on a single part of the obstacle!) It was the basic premise I needed to write my middle grade book, Evolution Revolution: Simple Machines. I took it one step further—a young boy teaching a squirrel, whom he names Jack, about simple machines like the wheel. Since squirrels are such good puzzle solvers, and share what they’ve learned with other squirrels (usually family members), it doesn’t seem like that big a stretch. Teach one, they all learn.
So the next step was for the squirrels to teach the other animals. In my novel they can talk to each other which of course they can’t do in the wild. But have you seen recent videos on Youtube and Facebook showing animals of different species doing the unexpected, like a lioness nurturing an orphaned deer instead of devouring it? Everyone knows about Koko and her kittens, and our family dog King ‘mothered’ our cat’s litter of kittens, so maybe it’s not so farfetched…
I took the premise one step further. Loss of habitat is a big concern for the earth’s creatures. When construction machines enter the squirrel’s wood, he applies what he’s learned from humans against humans to stop the destruction. It would only work for a short while because we are infinitely smarter, but this would certainly draw scientific interest and thereby halt destruction of the woods while scientists studied the animals. So maybe it could happen.
I suggest being really nice to the squirrels in your backyard; they’ll bring friends.
Facebook: Author Charlotte Bennardo
Cathy Thole-Daniels is the Illustrator of the series.