From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 3–6—Large and humorous mixed-media illustrations will draw children to this large-format biography. Using watercolor, graphite pencil, gouache, acrylic ink, colored pencil, and collage, Trueman captures Darwin's world and adventures. Cartoonlike people have prominent noses, expressive faces, and enormous hands. Throughout, the naturalist appears to be both curious and hapless, a description he might have given himself in his own modest journals. Lasky's text balances the exuberant artwork with well-organized information, gracefully sprinkling in quotes from Darwin's own writing. Touching briefly on his childhood, the text devotes most of the space to Darwin's years on the Beagle
, explaining how his discoveries in geology, paleontology, and animal anatomy on that trip led to his theory about evolution. Lasky uses Darwin's own words to show that he questioned the literal nature of the Bible and the divinity of Jesus, but that he wrote several times praising God as the Creator. Although the text is brief, it creates a clear view of a man who was troubled by the implications of his observations and who, at the end of his life, was more interested in experimenting with earthworms and carnivorous plants than in promoting his theory.—Ellen Heath, Easton Area Public Library, Easton, PA
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Darwin’s legendary five-year voyage to South America aboard the Beagle forms the centerpiece of this informative picture book for confident readers. Lasky begins with Darwin’s childhood as a poor but remarkably curious student; he landed his spot as the naturalist on the Beagle more due to his enthusiasm than any standing in the scientific field. With clarity and style, Lasky recounts the puzzling things that he found on the trip, explores the questions he began asking, and hints at the conclusions he would arrive at, both in terms of biology and geology. Trueman’s skillful blend of inks, watercolors, pencils, gouache, and collage nicely capture Darwin’s fascination with the natural world, with fanciful scenes of Darwin peering through ferns, exploring islands, and even riding a giant turtle. With only a quick rundown of the hullabaloo surrounding the publication of The Origin of Species, the focus here is clearly on Darwin’s travels, and this accessible jaunt will easily situate the man as a natural adventurer in kids’ minds before he becomes just another stuffy old scientist. Grades 3-5. --Ian Chipman