In 1818, nine year old Charley Darwin is sent to boarding school in his hometown. By sixteen, Charley is not doing very well in his studies because he spends his time working on science experiments. When his father finds out, he sends Charley to medical college with his older brother. He finally admits that medicine is not for him and his father sends him to study for a career as a clergyman. Charley interviews with Captain FitzRoy and becomes a naturalist on the HMS Beagle for an around the world ocean voyage. In late December 1831, the Beagle and crew begin the trip. He enjoys the adventures and sends crates of specimens home from the exotic locations they visit. After returning to England in 1836, Charley works with other scientists on organizing his notes and specimens. Soon, he begins forming his own scientific theories about life based on his research.
This is an interesting story about Charles Darwin's youth and early adulthood told in the first person point of view. While I typically do not read much historical fiction, I enjoyed reading about Darwin as a real person and not just a historical figure and scientist. In the story, Darwin has all the typical problems most people have while growing up and finding his place in the world. While the language is more formal than what is used today, it does fit with the historical setting. Additionally, the use of English spellings of the period adds to the authentic feel of the story. The more violent details of Charley's adventures, such as meeting angry groups of natives, are not too descriptive and younger teens shouldn't have problems with this. The scientific theories in the story are explained in simple non-scientific language. A short bibliography included at the end will give readers a chance to find out more about Darwin in his own words.