Skip to main content

Charles Darwin and the Beagle Adventure, written by AJ Wood and Clint Twist with Extracts from the Works of Charles Darwin, RL 4

This year celebrates the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and there are many books for children and adults recognizing this. One of the most beautiful and and engrossing, and possibly the one that will be the most attractive to young readers who are less than enthralled by science, is Charles Darwin and the Beagle Adventure: Countries Visited During the Voyage Round the World of the HMS Beagle Under the Command of Captain FitzRoy, Royal Navy. The scrapbook format of this book, made popular by the Ology series of books, also published by Candlewick Press, is what makes this book so easy to pick up and fall into. My 5 year old, who cannot read yet, has spent minutes (for him, this is a very long time to sit still in one spot, regardless of what he is doing) poring over this book at a time, picking it up again and again. On top of that, our local Natural History Museum has an exhibit titled Darwin: Evolution/Revolution at which we were able to see artifacts and facsimiles of artifacts that accompanied Darwin on the HMS Beagle. This, too, proved fascinating for my son. Why? I may never know... But, I think this might be a testament to the universally interesting life of Charles Darwin.

Like Professor Ari Berk's gorgeous books, Charles Darwin and the Beagle Adventure is, above all else, a collection of the work of amazing artists. I have always been a fan of antique scientific drawings, be they of flora or fauna, and this book does not disappoint. There are also historical photographs and engravings included in the book. Small books within the book and flaps conceal added information about the subject and his journey. There are "booklets" on Erasmus Darwin, Charles's famous grandfather, navigation, orchids, slavery, hydrography, Darwin and the Bible, the geologist Charles Lyell who may have been Darwin's greatest influence, and rodents of the Andes, to name a few. There is also a fold-out chart showing the principle tracks of the Beagle as well as envelopes containing the reproduction of a letter written by Darwin as well as a family tree and a final envelope containing a brief version of his Theory of Evolution that took him 20 years to publish, as well as a handful of "photographs" that illustrate this.

Two-page spreads, with the occasional four-page spread, make up the "chapters" of this book. Beginning with an introduction that focuses on Darwin's early life, the chapters also cover the preparations for the trip, the HMS Beagle, the voyage to Brazil, South America, Patagonia, Cape Horn, the Galapagos, and the voyage back to England. The most fascinating thing that I learned as I read this book was the story of the Fuegians. When FitzRoy and the HMS Beagle first visited the island of Tierra del Fuego in 1830, he adopted four native children and took them home to England with him. FitzRoy renamed the boys Boat Memory, York Minster, Jemmy Button and the girl Fuegia Basket. They were returned to their island homeland in 1832 along with a missionary who, along with the children was meant to help spread "civilization" among the Fuegians. The missionary lasted a matter of days and was taken back on board the Beagle.

For a very thorough review of the many books on Darwin that have been published for kids this year, check out this great piece from the editors of the School Library Review. And, for a spectacular collection of poetry selected by our current Children's Poet Laureate, Mary Ann Hoberman, don't miss my review of The Tree That Time Built: A Celebration of Nature, Science and Imagination. Inspired by Darwin's Tree of Life diagram, Hoberman and Linda Winston selected poems that represented the "family tree of all life on earth" and included an audio CD of the poets and others reading a selection of these poems.


Val said…
That looks like a beautiful book. I'll have to try and find it. My daughter shares a birthday with Darwin and Lincoln and finds the connection fascinating, and I was born in the same town as Darwin and am rather fond of him myself.
Tanya said…
Wow! That is quite a coincidence & connection. It never clicked that Darwin and Lincoln were both born on Feb 12 1809!!! Thank you for calling that to my attention and I hope you locate a copy of any of the great Darwin books that came out this year!

Popular posts from this blog

Made by Dad: 67 Blueprints for Making Cool Stuff - Projects You Can Build For (and With) Kids! by Scott Bedford

On his personal website, Scott Bedforddescribes himself as an "Award Winning Online Creative Professional" working within the advertising and design industry. What is more interesting (and applicable here) is how hisWhat I Made website came to be. While sitting in a Starbucks with his restless young sons, trying to enjoy his latte, Bedford created something out of coffee stir sticks that ended up keeping his boys entertained, finishing his coffee in peace and sparking (re-sparking, really) his creative drive and reminding him of the "enormous joy gained from making things, even simple things, and that this joy is not the complexity or quality of the finished project but in the process of making itself. On Bedford'sWhat I Made website, he even shares Six Cool Coffee Shop Crafts for Kidsthat you can try out next time you want to enjoy your coffee and your kids are making that difficult. I've shared two below - be sure to check out the website and see the rest!


How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers

How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers remains the most read post on my blog since I wrote it in 2012. Because of this, I have cleaned up this post, tightened the writing and added in any pertinent information that has come about since it originally ran. When I first started in August of 2008, I was scrambling for content, finding my purpose and my voice and not always doing my best writing. How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers was one of the first articles I wrote and, as a bookseller and a book reviewer, and now as an elementary school librarian where I have gone from working with kids reading well beyond their grade level to kids reading well below, this philosophy remains my organizing principle and central focus when reading and recommending books to parents and children. 

In the interest of my mission and the attention this article continues to receive, I have updated and expanded this article and included a guide to using …

POP-UP: Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book, paper engineering by Ruth Wickings, illustrations by Frances Castle RL: All ages

POP-UP:  Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book with paper engineering by Ruth Wickings and illustrations by Frances Castle is THE COOLEST BOOK EVER!!!  I know that I haven't dedicated much time to pop-up books here, but they have always held a special place in my heart, and the phrase "paper engineering" is a favorite of mine. Although I didn't know what it was at the time, I did go through a paper engineering phase when I was ten or so. I would sneak off to the back of the classroom during independent work periods and go to town on the construction paper and glue and make these little free-standing dioramas. A huge fan of The Muppet Show (the original), I reconstructed the all-baby orchestra from an episode, drawing and coloring each baby and his/her instrument then gluing them onto a 3D orchestra section I had crafted out of brown construction paper.  I also made a 3D version of Snidely Whiplash throwing Nell off a cliff with Dudley Do-Right wa…