Sunday, April 18, 2010

One Beetle Too Many

Author: Kathryn Lasky
Illustrator: Matthew Trueman
Publisher: Candlewick Press (2009)
Pages: 48
Ages: 9 to 12 years old

In 2009, there seemed to be a resurgence of Charles Darwin related books. With CHARLES AND EMMA: THE DARWINS' LEAP OF FAITH by Deborah Heiligman and THE EVOLOUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE by Jacqueline Kelly both topping various lists and award nominations, I wasn't surprised to see a picture book about the life of Charles Darwin. ONE TOO MANY BEETLES written by Kathryn Lasky is a biography of Charles Darwin in a picture book format. However, this isn't a small child's picture book nor is it a dry boring biography written for adults. Instead it really is meant more for children second grade and up. The 48 pages of the book is comprised of small chapters that re-tell Darwin's life from the time he was a young child to the time that he published THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES. Lasky focuses her story more on Darwin's natural curiosity that was nurtured by his family as a child, and continued through his whole life. The majority of the book is centered on Darwin's voyage through South America and all of the wonderful discoveries that he made during that period of time. The author also focuses on the scientist's family life including his marriage to Emma Wedgwood and their 10 children. All of which will be more entertaining to children than the controversy surround Darwin's book and theories. I found the book to be an informative and fun read.

Trueman's illustrations are truly the highlight of this book. I wish I was better able to technically describe how beautiful each illustration is, but suffice to say that the mixed media (collage, watercolor, pencil, acrylic ink, etc.)works to feature prominently Darmwin's discoveries. Characters and creatures are drawn with over-sized features and wonderful detail. If just for the illustrations, this is one book that should find it's way into a teacher's collection of books.

In celebration of spring, go for a hike, explore some natural life and read a book.

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