of Grandmother Fish & Clades

June 21, 2022
by Jonathan Tweet
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Since 2015, we have been creating imaginative ways for kids to learn about science, especially evolution. We are all related!

Grandmother Fish: A Child’s First Book of Evolution
Groundbreaking and delightful. Available from Macmillan through any bookstore. Ask for it at an independent bookstore near you (find a store). Hoot! Hoot! Learn more.

Clades & Clades Prehistoric
Animal-matching card games that teach evolutionary relationships among animals—including humans! A “clade” is any complete branch of the evolutionary family tree. Available direct from Atlas Games or ask for it at your friendly local game store. Learn more.

A “cladogram” of all the animals in Clades

Clades Solo
This app provides a one-player Clades experience—with dinosaurs. Learn more.

Crow Scientist
With this free app, kids learn to observe crows the way scientists do. Designed with crow scientists John & Colleen Marzluff. Learn more.

Planet Voyagers
This beautiful board game teaches kids about the solar system and Earth’s place in it. Available direct from SimplyFun.

July 10, 2024
by Jonathan Tweet
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10 Years Ago: Grandmother Fish on Kickstarter

Ten years ago, Karen and I ran a successful Kickstarter campaign for Grandmother Fish. We asked for $12k, we were counting on hitting $20k, and we reached $36k, with over a thousand backers. The money from the pledges allowed me to pay people, get the book printed, and ship it. Running the Kickstarter also put us in touch with the fans who supported us, and we appreciated how excited people were about the book. Kickstarter campaigns are risky, and lots of people stepped up to help us out. For me it was especially meaningful to see support from scientists, teachers, and a couple of my heroes, such as Daniel Dennett and Steven Pinker. Triceratops easily beat T. rex in a popularity contest, so it’s “Cousin Triceratops” that appears in the story, not “Cousin Tyrannosaurus.”

Later, we did Kickstarter campaigns for the card games Clades & Clades Prehistoric as well as Crow Scientist. Karen and I might do another Kickstarter campaign soon enough, so stay tuned. 

Here’s the Kickstarter page from 10 years ago.

June 6, 2024
by Jonathan Tweet
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10 Years Ago: Karen Lewis

Ten years ago, I teamed up with Karen Lewis to create Grandmother Fish. I was looking for an artist, and Karen turned out to be much more than that. She’s an experienced children’s science illustrator, and she’s a mom, so she was perfect for this project. Her illustrations combine biological accuracy with a fun style that kids respond to, and she really helped make the book appealing to kids. When I asked her to create an illustration of “Grandmother Ape”, for example, she drew a mother ape plus its baby ape. Naturally, the drawing is a lot more appealing thanks to that little ape being in it. She also talked me into including an evolutionary family tree. It was a lot of work, but kids love it so much that it was worth it. Karen went above and beyond to make Grandmother Fish a success. 

Karen also did lovely art for Clades, Clades Prehistoric, and Crow Scientist.

May 27, 2024
by Jonathan Tweet
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Why are the planets in a line?

Here’s a science question for y’all to pose to your kids: Why do the planets, moon, and sun always appear in a line? Why don’t they sometimes form triangles or rectangles like stars do?

If your kids like outer space, check out my game Planet Voyagers.

May 21, 2024
by Jonathan Tweet
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10 Years Ago: The light in parents’ eyes

Ten years ago, I decided to make Grandmother Fish a physical book and to raise money for it on Kickstarter. In the fall of 2013, I figured I would self-fund a digital version of the book, and that way I didn’t have to pay for printing. I even drew a couple animated GIFs as a proof of concept. What changed my mind in 2014 was the lights that appeared in parents’ eyes when would I told about Grandmother Fish. I’d say, “Evolution for preschoolers,” and they’d react with surprise and delight. They recognized it as a good idea that they’d never heard of before, and that gave me the confidence to go on Kickstarter raise money for printing. And that’s how Grandmother Fish got where it is today. 

March 28, 2024
by Jonathan Tweet
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Grandmother Fish in Tel Aviv

The story of Grandmother Fish is everybody’s story, and that’s why scientists and kids from around the world respond to it. Dr. Ilil Pratt of the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History in Tel Aviv fell in love with it, and here is museum guide Davidi Liberman reading it to kids to celebrate Darwin Day 2024. You can see the kids crawling on the ground like Grandmother Reptile. We are all related!

Please ask for Grandmother Fish: A Child’s First Book of Evolution at your local bookstore!

February 3, 2024
by Jonathan Tweet
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Jupiter in the Evening

This February, it’s easy to spot Jupiter in the night sky and point it out to kids. Helping them learn to spot Jupiter is an easy way to help kids see our place in the solar system. You can see Jupiter high in the sky in the evening, and it’s the brightest “star” you’ll ever see up there. Venus is brighter than Jupiter, but it’s visible only when it’s near the horizon. You can also use game pieces from my game Planet Voyagers to show kids where Jupiter is compared to Earth. It’s 5 times as far away from the sun as we are, and it’s currently about 90° to one side. Jupiter appears to the east of the sun, which is to the left in the northern hemisphere and to the right in the southern hemisphere.

On the 14th & 15th, the moon appears near Jupiter in the sky. If you show kids where the moon is a couple different days starting around the 12th, you’ll see the moon get both more full and further east from one evening to the next.

Planet Voyagers is available direct from the publisher, Simply Fun.

Jupiter is 5x as far from the sun as Earth is.
The game pieces are really something!

September 11, 2023
by Jonathan Tweet
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10 Years Ago: Grandmother Fish’s Eureka Moment

Ten years ago, after I got back from Burning Man 2013, I had a eureka moment and realized how I could make my kids’ book really work. This was just after I was squeezed out of my last corporate job, doing game design at Amazon. At this point, I had been working on Grandmother Fish for almost 15 years, and in fact I had stalled on it. With Grandmother Fish on hold, my then-current project was a book about the historical Jesus and the ways that we are living in a world that he made. 

As it happened, I was soaking in my hot tub in a highly relaxed state, thinking about the earliest sorts of language. I had been reading The Symbolic Species by Terence Deacon, which lays out how language might have developed (unconvincingly, I might say). It occurred to me that in primeval times a wise elder might have mimcked the actions of an animal in order to convey information about it, and then it hit me that in Grandmother Fish the kids should mimic the “grandmothers.” I shook all over, and I knew that I had the secret of getting the book to work, only better than I’d originally imagined. 

Up until this point, the book had called the child’s attention to anatomy, such as “Great-Great-Great-Grandma Fish had bones.” With the switch from nouns to verbs, “bones” got changed into “wiggling” and “chomping.” Verbs are better than nouns: they’re more fun, they engage preverbal kids better, and they’re more memorable. A mother of two autistic kids tells me that Grandmother Fish a great book for them.

Here are some early notes that I wrote as I struggled to frame the big ideas in Grandmother Fish. 

April 6, 2023
by Jonathan Tweet
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Clades Solo Updated & Free

A new, free version of the Clades Solo app is now available on Apple, Android, and Amazon. Match animals by their evolutionary histories and see how fast you can play through the deck! The new version adds the standard 12-card version to the existing 9-card game. (I like playing the 12-card game on easy mode because it’s fast.) Play with the basic Clades cards, with the Clades Prehistoric cards, or with a mix of them. Clades Solo feature’s Karen’s lovely art and plenty of science notes for players who love biology and evolution. The app is now free, so tell the teachers, scientists, and animal-lovers you know about it. Check it out! 

June 27, 2022
by Jonathan Tweet
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Crow Scientist in Persian

Crow Scientist is now available in Persian (Farsi)! In March, Nasser Yousefi of DONYA  Children’s Research Institute contacted Dr Marzluff about translating our app into Persian. The institute works on early childhood education and development in Iran. They have been working on a children’s crow project for some time, drawing kids’ attention to the lives of crows. Everyone loves crows! Now they have our app to help them with their valuable educational work. We hope that in this small way, our the shared love of children, education, and crows builds a connection between American and Iranian citizens.

Our developer, David Marques, would be happy to incorporate other languages into the app if others can provide the translated text. Which language will be next?

Crow Scientist teaches kids to observe crows the way a scientist does. Here in Seattle, you can hear young crows begging for food, so it’s a great time to show kids how to spot them. Learn more. Crow Scientist is free and ad-free! Get it here.