2014 Winner: Middle Grades Science Book

The Skull in the Rock: How a Scientist, a Boy, and Google Earth Opened a New Window on Human Origins, by Lee R. Berger & Marc Aronson. National Geographic Children’s Books, 2012.

When nine-year-old Matthew Berger showed his father, paleoanthropologist Lee Berger, a fossil he had found in the hills near Johannesburg, South Africa, a remarkable journey of discovery was launched. Matthew’s discovery turned out to be a nearly complete fossil skeleton of a previously unknown species, Australopithecus sediba (a major find in the hominid tree). In this book, which serves both as an autobiography of an adventurer and an introduction to the origins of humans in Africa, Berger and co-author Aronson bring the story of an important discovery to life for young readers. The authors offer step-by-step explanations of paleontological techniques, using photographs from the field and laboratory. Readers also take a step back in time to look at Berger’s early interest in the natural world, as an inquisitive young boy growing up in Georgia.