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Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species: A Graphic Adaptation

4.4 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 860-1401014492
ISBN-10: 1605299480
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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 9 Up—The first part of this book gives the background and context in which Darwin developed his theory of natural selection. Arriving home in 1836 after five years of exploration aboard the Beagle, he is asked to explain what he learned. Thus the structure of this graphic novel is established. Through his voice, readers learn about his discoveries and observations, his correspondence with other scientists who helped him formulate his theories, as well as his personal life. The second section highlights the salient points of the original On the Origin of Species. Excerpts from it are included in almost every frame, carefully selected to illuminate the argument. They are differentiated by a gray background while dialogue bubbles and other more current scientific information appear on a white background. In the last section, Darwin looks into the future to explain important advances in the scientific world after the publication of Species, such as the acceptance of Mendelian genetics in 1900, the idea of continental drift in 1911, genetic recombination in 1931, the discovery of the structure of DNA in 1953, and the mapping of the human genome in 2000. Illustrations vary in size and are vital in illuminating text; animals are particularly colorful and well executed. The concepts introduced range from straightforward to highly complicated, so readers still have to work to grasp scientific meaning. However, on the 150th anniversary of Darwin's publication, one could not ask for a finer contribution to the realm of scientific writing.—Ragan O'Malley, Saint Ann's School, Brooklyn, NY
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Michael Keller, an award-winning journalist and writer, has a bachelor of science degree in wildlife ecology from the University of Florida and a master’s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Nicolle Rager Fuller is a professional illustrator, with a bachelor of arts degree in biochemistry from Lewis and Clark College and a graduate certificate in science illustration from the University of California-Santa Cruz. She lives in Washinton, DC, with her husband.

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Product Details

  • Series: Graphic Adaptation
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Rodale Books (October 27, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1605299480
  • ASIN: B005GNLSMK
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,241,625 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I heard author Michael Keller on Science Friday yesterday and bought the book on the way home from work. Contrary to the previous reviewer's comments, this graphic novel is beautifully illustrated. The reader has to understand that this is not intended to be a textbook. The illustrator and author have embraced the tradition of graphic novels created a book that is exciting, entertaining, and beautiful to look at.

I have a strong background in biology and found the author's explanations of the process of evolution to be accurate and friendly to the average reader. This would be an excellent text to use for a high school or undergraduate course.

I do wish Amazon would post interior pages from the book so buyers might decide for themselves about the illustrations. My two cents is that they should certainly motivate you to buy the book, not dissuade you.

This would be a great holiday gift for any science lover on your list.
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Format: Hardcover
The idea of a graphic version of the "Origin of Species" is a good one, as many casual readers will never get through the original. Thus a graphic format might be more easily read and understood by them, if presented in the right way. Years ago I found the book "Darwin for Beginners" by Jonathan Miller and Borin Van Loon to be a rather charming graphic account of Darwin's ideas. Now Rodale Press has recently published Michael Keller's "Charles Darwin's On The Origin of Species: A Graphic Adaptation" and I was interested in seeing how the subject was treated compared to the earlier work. At first I did not particularly like the illustrations (as noted by another reviewer), but styles differ and I while I don't think the illustrations are up to more rigorous scientific standards, they are more than adequate for a book of this nature. Boren Van Loon's illustrations, which borrowed a lot from other classic ink drawings and paintings, were also a bit quirky.

However the main point is that the Theory of Natural Selection was well covered and I think pretty well explained. I do have a few gripes (the reason that I did not give this book five stars) and these primarily have to do with content. For some reason Keller apparently used later editions of "The Origin" in which Spencer's phase "Survival of the Fittest" was added. Darwin did not invent this phrase and it was not in the first edition. The phrase, while true in the sense that "fit" can mean any adaptation that works to allow an individual to reproduce, does not necessarily mean that the "strong" overcome the "weak"and has unfortunately been utilized to imply that there are "inferior" peoples because they do not fit preconceived notions of superiority.
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Format: Hardcover
I can't really speak to the quality of the text part of the adaptation, not having read the original, but it seems an intelligent representation of the principles introduced by Darwin's theory. It is easy to follow, engaging, and informative.

As to the quality of the illustrations, however, I have to say the cover does not provide an accurate representation of the art inside. The drawings are beautifully colored and laid out well, but the physical forms of the humans and animals (humans especially) are often lifeless and awkward, as well as looking rushed--and definitely not in a stylized manner, although other aspects of her art do show a distinct style. In all, the drawings seem more amateurish than I would expect for such an adaptation. Fuller does many things right, but the talent really isn't there.

Whether the quality bothers you or not is your call, however. The illustrations weren't egregious enough for me to put the book down; a serious artist might get more irritated. I'd recommend this book as a good introduction to evolution for kids, or an entertaining and educational alternative to reading the original text.
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Format: Hardcover
In less than two hundred pages of annotated color illustrations, this book attempts to cover Charles Darwin's large and complex volume. Obviously, the author has massively edited Darwin's original material. However, it is well done. The book uses Darwin's words more often than not. The selection and presentation makes it cogent to our time. The author often draws examples from recent experience. This makes the material more understandable and interesting to today's readers. The book targets young adults and the author has done everything possible to attract and hold such a reader. Whether it will be successful with any particular individual is unpredictable; it is a tough audience.

The illustrator, Nicolle Rager Fuller, deserves equal billing to the author. Her work is obviously an essential part of the book. Further, the artwork is perfect for this book and the target audience. If anything in this book will capture young readers, it is the art. Adult readers will find it pleasing as well.

The nineteenth century is crowded with great scientists, scientific advances, and achievements having impacts into the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. To a great extent, those scientists communicated and fed off one another. The fields of biology, geology, archeology, philosophy, horticulture, anthropology, mathematics, sociology, ornithology, entomology, botany, and zoology were all advancing and reinforcing one another. This book brings out this fact and cites the names of scientists and practitioners with whom Darwin interacted.

The book is balanced, honest, and accurate. Unfortunately, anything dealing with Darwin is politically charged.
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