Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Children's Nonfiction Anatomy & Physiology

Totally Human

Why We Look and Act the Way We Do

by (author) Cynthia Pratt Nicolson

illustrated by Dianne Eastman

Kids Can Press
Initial publish date
Mar 2011
Anatomy & Physiology, Biology
Recommended Age
9 to 13
Recommended Grade
4 to 8
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2011
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Where to buy it

Out of print

This edition is not currently available in bookstores. Check your local library or search for used copies at Abebooks.


The fascinating science behind our bodies and behaviors and how they link us to our ancient ancestors.

What makes us human is cause for surprise. We retain some of the appearances and behaviors of our very ancient ancestors, including early mammals, amphibians and fish. Yes, we look and act the way we do because of them.

Totally Human explains the many puzzling and strange things about us and the weird and wonderful things we do, simply because we're human. A child-sized take on the scientific fields of evolutionary biology and psychology.

About the authors

Cynthia Pratt Nicolson is a teacher and an award-winning children’s author who has written several non-fiction books, including The Stars and The Planets. She lives on Bowen Island, British Columbia.

Cynthia Pratt Nicolson's profile page

Dianne Eastman Dianne Eastman worked in advertising before she turned to full-time design and illustration of children’s books. She lives in northern Ontario.

Dianne Eastman's profile page


  • Winner, Best Books for Kids & Teens, Canadian Children's Book Centre
  • Short-listed, Silver Birch Nonfiction Award, Ontario Library Association
  • Short-listed, Lane Anderson Award, Fitzhenry Family Foundation

Editorial Reviews

Eastman's digital photo-collages are nicely attuned to the text, with enough wackiness to bring out the humor yet also built up of parts that call attention to the expository material.

Kirkus Reviews

The text explains scientific concepts with concision and wit.

Washington Post

This playful science book introduces the biology of human evolution and behavior with an accessible, interactive text packed with information and wry, bright computer graphics on each spread.


While the facts are uncommon and occasionally incredible, these are just the types of details that might inspire young fact hounds.

School Library Journal

Librarian Reviews

Totally Human: Why We Look and Act the Way We Do

Non-fiction, Life Science, Adaptations, Human Body, Evolution To answer the ever persistent question “Why?”, Cynthia Pratt Nicolson’s newest non-fiction title peers into humanity’s primordial past to explain the evolution of a hilariously diverse assortment of physical and behavioural traits. From why we hiccup, feel ticklish and throw up to why we have two ears, crave junk food and love pets, Totally Human covers the gamut on why we look and act the way we do.

Nicolson presents a fascinating array of scientific facts in a witty, conversational tone arranged around 22 thought-provoking questions whose answers effortlessly weave together a contemporary narrative of anecdotes and research. Information-packed sidebars, in eye-catching colours, offer yet more engrossing facts in what amounts to a highly accessible introduction to evolutionary biology and psychology.

Dianne Eastman’s fun, irreverent digital-collage illustrations perfectly complement the wacky, weird and bizarre facts kids will learn, and will have them turning the pages to see what comes next. The idiosyncratic pairing of human and animal photography, combined with comic artwork — like a manically grinning dolphin head perched atop a chubby infant body — add an unmistakable allure for children in Grades 4 to 6.

A clear table of contents, concise glossary and thoroughly detailed index nicely round out the volume. This is a great addition to Nicolson’s many popular science books for children.

Source: The Canadian Children's Bookcentre. Summer 2011. Volume 34 No. 3.

Totally Human: Why We Look and Act the Way We Do

This book explains the many puzzling and strange things about us and the weird and wonderful things we do simply because we’re human. In this fascinating introduction to the scientific fields of evolutionary biology and psychology, children will learn that we look and act the way we do because we have inherited body parts and behaviours from our ancestors. It explains why we laugh, why we crave junk food and much more.

Source: The Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Best Books for Kids & Teens. Fall, 2012.

Other titles by Cynthia Pratt Nicolson

Other titles by Dianne Eastman