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A Beginner’s Guide to Immortality

Found in: science; social studies; language arts & literature; 3-5; 6-8

A Beginner’s Guide to Immortality: From Alchemy to Avatars by Maria Birmingham and Josh Holinaty (Owlkids Books, 2015) (48 pages and available at or for FREE at your local library)

Humankind’s desire for immortality probably followed the recognition that all life ends. It is at least as old as the Epic of Gilgamesh (2000 BCE) and continues to be a recurring theme in myth, legend, and popular entertainment around the world. Today, some scientists are examining the biological limits to longevity in an effort to extend life while others are exploring ways to remove the limits completely. If that sounds like science fiction, it is, but as we’ve learned before, yesterday’s sci-fi can become today’s fact.

A Beginner’s Guide is a visually engaging history of an idea for grade 4-8 students with five chapters on elixirs and other magical substances, immortals, magical places, what science is discovering today, and what futurists project for tomorrow. Students will learn about alchemists like Ko Hung, Jābir ibn Hayyān, and Roger Bacon, the historical Nicolas Flamel, a creature that changes from adult to immature form repeatedly, cryonics, telomeres and telomerase, and scientists and futurists like William Andres, Leonard Hayflick, Robert Ettinger, Saul Kent, and Ray Kurzweil (the inventor of the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, among many accomplishments). As well as the quest for physical immortality, the author presents how different religions address spiritual immortality. Sidebars and interesting facts supplement the text. A Beginner’s Guide to Immortality provides a starting point for investigating the quest for immortality in a language arts, social studies, biology, or bioethics classroom.


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