Discovering Life's Story Review

Discovering Life’s Story Review (Vol. 1) | The History of Science

Reading is an important part of our homeschooling but it’s difficult to find those special, inspiring books that not only inform but also rouse curiosity.

When it comes to STEM, my son’s passion knows no bounds (some of you know his interests). So, imagine my delight when I stumbled upon a true gem that not only captivated his interest but also became a catalyst for deepening his curiosity and even fostering a growth mindset, Discovering Life’s Story: Biology’s Beginnings by Joy Hakim.

Today, I’m excited to share our impressions with you through this Discovering Life’s Story review.

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At A Glance – Discovering Life’s Story Review

Summary: Discovering Life’s Story by Joy Hakim is a brand-new series aimed at teens that seeks to bridge the gaps between history and science and inspire kids to look at these subjects from a new perspective.

Written in the present tense and peppered with direct questions, reflections, and interesting facts, Discovering Life’s Story manages to draw teens in. The beautifully curated illustrations and quotes come from primary and secondary sources, inviting the audience into the world of scientists and thinkers who shaped the world.

Discovering Life’s Story isn’t your average boring history of science textbook, it’s a truly inspiring book for any curious young minds. It’s a must-have in any homeschooler’s collection.

Our rating:

Grades: 7-adult

Author: Joy Hakim

Formats: PDF or printed book


  • inspiring
  • fast paced and engaging
  • beautiful illustrations
  • interesting information
  • direct questions to invite further reflection
  • brings history to the present
  • refreshing perspective on the history of science


  • some complain it doesn’t present enough ethnical groups

Discovering Life's Story Review by monkeyandmom

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A little about Joy Hakim

Joy Hakim is the author of the A History of US series, which has sold over three million copies. She is an American author and educator, best known for her ability to bring history to life through engaging narratives.

Hakim has a unique talent for converting complex subjects into accessible and compelling stories, particularly for younger audiences. Her ability to weave factual information into compelling narratives has made her a beloved author in the field of educational literature.

Renowned for her captivating approach to history, Joy Hakim has now embarked on a new journey with her latest book series, Discovering Life’s Story.

Joy Hakim

I am writing a storyteller’s book on biology, which includes new research into evolutionary biology and presents the three domains that currently describe the biological world. It’s an amazing subject, perhaps the defining science of our time.

Joy Hakim

Discovering Life’s Story: Biology’s Beginnings – Overview

Biology’s Beginnings is only the first volume out of 4 that will be published under MITeens (Candlewick Press). The series already gathered starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist and was reviewed in the Wall Street Journal and Forbes.

In a world where books often compete for our attention, a select few stand out not just for their content but also for their presentation. Joy Hakim’s Discovering Life’s Story: Biology’s Beginnings is one such gem that not only delves into the history of science but also captivates readers with its fast-paced, engaging narrative.

Discovering Life’s Story: Biology’s Beginnings offers a bird’s-eye view of the history of science, particularly biology, presenting engaging stories, facts about great thinkers, important ideas, and turbulent times, when superstition and religion still held sway over reason.

Discovering life's story review for homeschoolers

The book consists of 12 chapters and an introduction. The story takes readers on a fascinating journey from 8th-century Baghdad through the 1800s in Europe, with brief pit stops in the Americas.

In its pages, the book deftly provides snapshots of the scientific world set against the backdrop of historical progress. It deliberately shines a light on the pivotal moments and figures that have shaped the scientific landscape as we know it today.

Joy Hakim, in her discerning narrative, chooses to emphasize the milestones and pioneers that have propelled science forward. This focus, while not exhaustive in terms of cultural and ethnic diversity, is strategic. It’s aimed at capturing the imagination of young readers, particularly teens, and sparking in them an eager curiosity to delve deeper into the history of science.

While some might argue for a more diverse representation, the book excels in its primary objective: to ignite a passion for the history of scientific discovery.

See a brief sneak peek inside:

Discovering Life’s Story Review

The exceptional quality of Discovering Life’s Story: Biology’s Beginnings struck me as soon as I unwrapped it and I couldn’t put it down once I started reading.

Little did I know that this compact book would not only captivate us but also lead us down many rabbit trails.

Between these pages, readers encounter famous scientists who revolutionized science, as well as lesser-known thinkers who pushed the boundaries of scientific thought.

Surprisingly, even unlikely candidates for a book on the history of science, such as kings, queens, priests, and artists like Shakespeare, make appearances. Their contributions are briefly dissected to demonstrate the extent of their scientific knowledge during an era when giants like Galileo and Copernicus were making groundbreaking discoveries.

Discovering life's story volume one review

With glossy pages, quality printing, a hardcover with an elegant sleeve, and a perfect size for carrying around, this book immediately makes a statement about its commitment to excellence. Moreover, it treats readers to gorgeous photography and illustrations, enhancing the overall reading experience.

The size is perfect for my son to carry around, and the gorgeous photography and illustrations immediately drew him in.

Each chapter of Discovering Life’s Story: Biology’s Beginnings begins with a beautiful full spread, with two-thirds of the page dedicated to a representative illustration or photograph, and the remaining space featuring two curated quotes that align with the chapter’s theme.

But the allure of this book isn’t merely skin deep. It combines the richness of primary and secondary sources to provide readers with a deeper understanding and connection to the subject matter.

Despite the wealth of information packed into its 160+ pages, the book manages to maintain an airy and engaging feel. It’s a testament to Hakim’s skill in weaving together the various threads of history, making the book both multilayered and multidimensional.

Comprehensive review of Discovering Life's Story by Joy Hakim

Joy Hakim’s style is distinctive, characterized by its clarity and coherence. It simplifies complex topics, making them both enjoyable to read and easy to imagine and understand.

The series is presented in the present tense, a creative choice that adds intrigue and brings history vividly into the present, making it especially appealing to teenagers.

Hakim employs a clever technique to make Discovering Life’s Story: Biology’s Beginnings more accessible. She presents new terms and extra information in colored boxes throughout the book, making it easier to grasp in context. There’s no need to put the book down and go look for an explanation of a certain concept.

discovering life's story joy hakim review

I also found it intriguing to find the author’s skill in posing open-ended questions and musings in the text itself. This technique creates a conversational tone, making readers feel as though they are part of an engaging lecture rather than reading a book.

I particularly enjoyed reading how she manages to skillfully explain concepts in context without sounding patronizing, all while maintaining the quality and delivery of information. When necessary, Hakim even highlights facts that specialists are still debating, encouraging readers to think critically.

Written in a style perfectly suited for teenagers, Discovering Life’s Story: Biology’s Beginnings effortlessly captures their attention. Throughout the narrative, the author injects fun and intriguing facts and mysteries into what might initially appear as dry historical content.

It presents teens with controversial and uncovered mysteries, such as the enigmatic Isabella Cortese, whose name might be a cleverly disguised secret.

Or fun facts such as the brief but fascinating anecdote about Queen Elizabeth I’s dental problems, revealing that her dentist suggested rubbing sugar on her decaying teeth, explaining why she seldom displayed them in portraits.

“Elizabeth, being rich, was able to eat a lot of sweets. Her teeth became a mess of dark, painful rot. Her dentist, suggesting the latest dental remedy of the times, told her to rub sugar on her teeth”

Hakim, Joy (2023), Discovering Life’s Story: Biology’s Beginnings, p. 42

These intriguing and fun tidbits of information are like gold nuggets in a field that could be perceived as boring history and have the power to pique the curiosity of any teenager, while also enriching their repertoire of fun facts.

Another one of the book’s remarkable achievements is its ability to ignite curiosity in teenage readers, encouraging further research and sparking their imaginations. Hakim’s purpose here is clear: to present history from a fresh perspective and ignite a curiosity for more understanding behind our modern science.

In an era where the pace of change is unprecedented, understanding the history of science is more critical than ever.

Discovering life's story review1

One of the most striking aspects of Joy Hakim’s Discovering Life’s Story: Biology’s Beginnings is its well-researched and balanced approach. This meticulous attention to detail is not just about presenting facts but about bringing history to life in a way that resonates with teens.

Hakim’s approach goes beyond simply recounting historical events. She delves into how these events were perceived by the people living through them, offering a multi-dimensional view of history. This approach adds richness to the narrative, as it feels like we’re not just learning about history but that we’re experiencing it through the eyes of those who were there.

Reading Hakim’s work has been a catalyst for our curiosity. She skillfully weaves primary and secondary sources into her story, encouraging readers to dive deeper. My son and I found ourselves inspired to seek out these original sources.

The inclusion of well-researched samples and excerpts from historical scientific works is particularly captivating. For instance, seeing the actual drawings from DaVinci’s sketches or pages of study from Robert Hooke’s Micrographia not only enriches the learning experience but also connects us to the very essence of these groundbreaking discoveries.

Discovering Life's Story- Biology's Beginnings samples

This depth of research has had a profound effect on our homeschooling. The vivid photographs of primary sources in Hakim’s book have been especially influential. They’ve inspired us to look for these works in the public domain and understand the context in which they were created.

This is the first time a book we read actually prompts us to dig into the books that back Hakim’s story. She also encourages further research by including a “for further reading” section at the end of the book where she also exposes some notes on the books she read and recommends.

I was pleasantly surprised to see another favorite of ours recommended, The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan along with many other titles that made it to our wish list.

It’s without exaggeration when I say Discovering Life’s Story: Biology’s Beginnings has been our launchpad for multiple rabbit holes that we are following happily!

While focused on the Western world, Discovering Life’s Story: Biology’s Beginnings briefly touches on worldwide discoveries (especially in the introduction), acknowledging the global contributions to science.

Critics might question the lack of a balanced overview with more ethnic diversity, but it’s important to remember that this book aims to be a glimpse into the history of science rather than a comprehensive account.

That said, I did find myself longing for a deeper dive into the ancient scientific advancements made by cultures like the Egyptians and Chinese. A dedicated volume on these ancient contributions might have served as a more fitting prelude to the series.

However, I feel that Hakim wisely touches on specific aspects of the history of science, leaving others open for further exploration. She highlights the stepping stones that brought science to where it is today, somewhat indirectly acknowledging that many of the giants of scientific discoveries were white men due to their access to information, funding, and societal support at the time.

Nevertheless, Hakim doesn’t overlook the significant, albeit less recognized, contributions of women and scientists from various ethnic backgrounds. She ensures these thinkers are not overshadowed by their more famed contemporaries.

The stories of trailblazers like Maria Sibylla Merian, with her remarkable journey to South America to document insects and flora, and Margherita Sarrochi, a polymath who mingled in the same intellectual circles as Galileo, are particularly captivating. These narratives added a delightful and enriching dimension to our reading experience.

Discovering Life's Story- joy hakim review

Diving into Discovering Life’s Story: Biology’s Beginnings I was pleasantly surprised by the richness of its content. It masterfully weaves history and science, introducing us to multifaceted individuals who were artists, merchants, and writers, all united by a common thread: an insatiable curiosity.

I feel that this book beautifully illustrates how different disciplines – science, history, art – converge, all fueled by the relentless pursuit of knowledge and discovery.

For example, one of the book’s highlights is the portrayal of the printing press invention by Gutenberg as a pivotal historical moment. This groundbreaking invention ignited a wildfire of curiosity, spurring explorers to set sail for new lands, inadvertently carrying with them microbes that would dramatically alter the course of history. This is how effortlessly Hakim manages to weave history and science to present a full picture to her readers.

The journey then takes us to the Renaissance era, where we are mesmerized by the genius of Leonardo Da Vinci. His unquenchable thirst for understanding led him to explore the human anatomy in unprecedented detail, revealing secrets that had remained hidden for centuries. As we move past the Renaissance, the book delves into the era of microscopic exploration, opening up a whole new world of understanding about the building blocks of life.

What I particularly appreciate about this book is how it presents the history of biology not as a standalone subject but as an integral part of a larger, ever-evolving historical landscape.

Joy Hakim doesn’t just narrate the history of science; she weaves it seamlessly into the larger fabric of world history. This approach allows readers to appreciate the interconnectedness of different fields, transforming what could be an overwhelming or dry subject into a fascinating world of knowledge. Her storytelling is filled with engaging anecdotes and facts, making the content relatable and memorable.

As we delve deeper, Discovering Life’s Story: Biology’s Beginnings reveals the stories behind pivotal discoveries. For example, on page 55, we learn about Galileo Galilei’s role in developing the first microscope for a friend, marking a significant milestone in the first scientific society.

Discovering Life's Story - a history of science review

A few chapters later, as we move through time, we also encounter Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, the father of microscopy. I love how, in this book, the story goes beyond his discovery. Here’s a man who was a textile merchant by trade and had only a basic education, yet he managed to completely transform our perception of the microscopic world. Armed with a microscope magnifying up to 300 times (which he invented with special glass-blowing techniques), Leeuwenhoek unveiled a realm previously invisible to the human eye.

What struck me most about his story was the profound impact of curiosity. It’s a powerful reminder that groundbreaking discoveries aren’t exclusive to those with extensive formal education. Instead, it’s the relentless pursuit of answers and understanding, the drive to explore and ask ‘why’ that propels individuals like Leeuwenhoek to make significant contributions. His story is not just about science (as we see it presented in most sources), it’s a testament to the human spirit’s boundless curiosity and its capacity to change the world, one discovery at a time.

In essence, this book is a celebration of the relentless human quest for knowledge, reminding us that the journey of discovery is as fascinating as the discoveries themselves.

Discovering Life's Story Biology's Beginnings review

The prints of fine art, and archival images in Discovering Life’s Story: Biology’s Beginnings are key assets.

They allow readers to experience history through the lens of time by featuring book pages from the described era, maps, and portraits of scientific pioneers. These visuals transport us from the early, clumsy attempts at science, where much remained unknown and mere thinking could prove dangerous, to the time when bright minds slowly began to piece together the puzzle of life.

Particularly striking are the contemporaneous drawings depicting historical scientific events. For instance, the illustration of Vesalius conducting a human dissection before an audience is not just a depiction of an event; it’s a portal into the atmosphere of the times. It encompasses everything from the focused learners to the opportunistic pickpockets, set against the backdrop of the period’s limited sanitation and public health understanding.

Throughout the book, Hakim reinforces her narrative with quotes from both primary and secondary sources, ensuring that it is well-researched and supported.

Discovering Life's Beginnings review by monkeyandmom- volume 1

What we felt about it

By now, it’s probably crystal clear: Discovering Life’s Story has been an absolute hit in our homeschool. In fact, I’d say it has more than hit the mark. It has ignited something we hold dear in our homeschooling philosophy: an insatiable curiosity and a robust growth mindset (and you all know how much I love these in our homeschool).

As we turned each page in Discovering Life’s Story, my son saw vividly that the path to discovery wasn’t always straight. The book is filled with tales of failed experiments, incorrect assumptions, and hypotheses that led nowhere. Yet, it’s this very narrative of trial and error that highlights the relentless force of curiosity and the unyielding desire to understand more.

I know we tend to look at history separate from other subjects (and notably science), but Joy Hakim’s masterful storytelling intertwines these two disciplines in a way that not only makes sense but brings them to life in a completely new light. This book has forever changed how we perceive science in our home.

Now, when we open a science textbook, we don’t just see facts and figures. We see a blend of human endeavor: a chronicle of trials, errors, shattered dreams, and, importantly, the undying spirit of human curiosity and resilience.

I feel this book has opened the door for a new point of view for both history and science for us and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series!

I have no doubt that this series will hold a place of honor in our homeschool library for many years to come.

Discovering Life's Story review Monkey and Mom

Conclusion: the perfect gift for curious minds

In a world filled with history books, Joy Hakim’s series, Discovering Life’s Story, stands as a testament to how historical storytelling can captivate and inspire. It’s an experience that leaves a lasting impression on curious minds.

I feel that Discovering Life’s Story teaches teenagers that science wasn’t a sudden revelation but the result of centuries of questioning, experimentation, and learning from mistakes.

It encourages them to embrace curiosity, not to fear failure but to stand on the shoulders of giants in their quest for the absolute truth.

This series is the perfect gift for curious minds, an educational treasure that will inspire, enlighten, and empower the scientists, historians, and thinkers of tomorrow.

So this was my Discovering Life’s Story review. I hope you found it useful.

What’s your take on the series? Did we need a history of science? Would you use it in your homeschool? Let me know in the comments and let’s talk!

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