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Galápagos George by Jean Craighead George, paintings by Wendell Minor

Happily for us, Jean Craighead George, who died in 2012 at the age of 92, worked right up to the end of her long, well travelled life. George, a naturalist who was known for imbuing her books with science and nature and illustrated many of her own books, worked often with artist Wendell Minor, who wrote this wonderful tribute to her. Galápagos George is their final collaboration. 

Galápagos George is the story of the famous Lonesome George, a giant tortoise who was the last of his species and lived to be 100 year old. George goes all the way back to the beginning to tell his story, about one million years ago in South America with Giantess George. Her life changes when a storm sweeps all kinds of living things into the sea, including George, who survives precisely because she is a turtle and can change her body fat into food and water. Giantess George, along with several relatives and many other kinds of animals, wash up on a new island (now names San Cristóbal - a map in the end papers illustrates her journey perfectly) six hundred miles from where she began. 

Galápagos George goes on to show how Giantess George adapts to her new environment by using her long neck  to reach up and eat the leaves off trees when the plants on the ground run out, leaving offspring with long necks who continue to adapt and survive. There is a sad turn of events when people arrive on the island, however, George's inclusion of Darwin in Giantess George's story is wonderful. Galápagos George ends with the last descendant of Giantess George spending the final years of her life at the Charles Darwin Research Station while the search for a mate proves fruitless. Lonesome George died on June 23, 2012 at four o'clock - just weeks after Jean Craighead George herself, who ends her book with these hopeful words, "as long as there is life, there will always be 'new and unimaginable things that can happen.' And they do. All the time."

Jean's Newbery Award winning books:

Posthumously published books:

Source: Review Copy


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