Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Charles Darwin and the Beagle Adventure by A. J. Wood and Clint Twist

When I first picked up Charles Darwin and the Beagle Adventure by A. J. Wood and Clint Twist, I did not see how to open it. It had two spines! Then I saw the drawing of a lock on the front and popped the cover open to reveal an attractively illustrated book with tiny books-in-the-book, pockets, and fold-out maps. Filled with nature drawings by Darwin and his contemporaries and with old photographs, the book seemed almost like a portable museum. Liking the bird drawings particularly, I thought it pretty and clever. I also thought I could read it in minutes but found more content than I calculated.

Aiming at 8 to 12 year olds, the authors have kept their text rather minimal, relying more on illustrations and quotes from the naturalist than their own words to tell story of the Beagle's voyage. It is a good story. The Beagle took five years to round the planet, spending much of its time in South America and the Galapagos Islands, where Darwin identified many species new to European science of the time. He sent thousands of specimens back to England. Studying them and thinking about the landscapes that he visited, he formed his ideas about evolution. He spent the rest of his long life completing the work he began on this voyage.

Young readers and adults who shun traditional science books will find Charles Darwin and the Beagle Adventure an attractive introduction to Darwin and his ideas of evolution. Those who want to know more about the naturalist, his family and friends, and how he came to write On the Origin of Species should try The Reluctant Mr. Darwin: An Intimate Portrait of Charles Darwin and the Making of His Theory of Evolution.

Wood, A. J. and Clint Twist. Charles Darwin and the Beagle Adventure. Templar Books, 2010. ISBN 9780763645380.

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