Non-Fiction Monday: All About Darwin

February, 12, 2009, marked the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth. 

The CYBILS Non-Fiction Picture Book category has three nominations dedicated to this amazing scientist.  All three are different in presentation.

 Both One Beetle Too Many by Kathryn Lasky and Darwin With Glimpses into His Private Journal and Letter by Alice B. McGinty  examine the whole life of Charles Darwin from early childhood through his famous voyage on the Beagle to the controversy of his theories.

In One Beetle Too Many, illustrator Matthew Trueman uses a variety of art media to complement Lasky’s rich text about a boy who did  not like school, did not please his father and was happiest when being out in the world. 

One Beetle Too Many is full of small details such as his mother being known for rasing beautiful, tame fancy pigeons and his father being a very large man who thought that Charles would be a disgrace …to all your family.”  While the book doesn’t have a table of contents , it is broken up into sections in which the reader can access based on interest areas.  Darwin saw himeself as “a complete millionaire in odd and curious facts.” 

Mary Azarian, illustrator for Darwin With Glimpses in to His Private Journals and Letters, uses woodcuts and watercolor to depict the life of Darwin.  There are insets of  his “journal” providing readers with primary sources.  And McGinty provided the source of each quote in the appendix.

It is clear from reading both books that Darwin was an extraordinary person, that his father did not approve of his career and that Darwin caused quite an uproar when he finally published The Origin of Species  from his secret journals.

Both books would be a great addition in either an elementary school or middle school.

In the National Geographic book, What Darwin Saw by  Rosalyn Schanzer, the book focus is on the actual voyage of the H.M.S Beagle and the discoveries made throughout out the lengthy trip.  Schanzer uses a graphic novel format at times to convey the information complete with speech bubbles in which Darwin and crew are commenting on the events of the time.  For the section, “Mystery of the Giant Bones”, Darwin comments in a speech bubble, “From the shells we may feel absolutely certain that the remains were embedded in a shallow sea.”

This book is divided into sections such as  “London, England, Mystery of the Big Bones, Riding with Gauchos”, etc.  After the entire journey the book shifts to exploring Darwin’s ideas about evolution depicted by a fabulous  tree of life illustration.  The sections that follow in the last half of the book include: “Clues and Hard Questions, Mountains of Evidence, and How Evolution Works”.

Schanzer uses abridged quotes from the Darwin’s Beagle Diary. Her text is set in black while Darwin’s quotes are in brown and everyone else in orange type.  She includes an index (yay, big fan of indexes), an author’s note, and a bibliography.

While What Darwin Saw is geared to K-5, I think it would fit in a middle school setting and would be a great read for those struggling readers who need good visual support.

Three books on Darwin.  You can learn a lot about the man, his voyage, his thoughts, and the controversy of his theories.  Will they end up on the shortlist? Stay tuned. Announcements will be made in January.

 Practically Paradise is hosting Nonfiction Monday today. Thank you, Diane.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Happy Reading.


2 thoughts on “Non-Fiction Monday: All About Darwin

  1. Pingback: Non-Fiction Monday: Award Winners « Check It Out

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