Author Kathryn Lasky did extensive research before writing One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin. She read many books, audited evolutionary biology classes and even attended lab sessions to look at bones at Harvard University. What resulted from her impressive preparation is a factual account of Darwin’s fascinating life, from childhood to his later years.
Before getting into the meat of the story, I simply cannot go further without mentioning the captivating illustrations in this book. Artist Matthew Trueman used a most unusual assembly of mediums to achieve the uniquely spectacular illustrations you see here. These included layers of acrylic ink, watercolors, graphite pencils, gouache paints and colored pencils. He then brilliantly used collage elements like paper, string, flowers and leaves to really give the illustrations true depth. You’ve simply just got to see these illustrations for yourself to appreciate them.
Now back to the story . . . Readers of One Beetle Too Many will not only learn about the focus of Charles Darwin’s passion – nature – but also of his struggles. As a young boy in the early 1800s, Charles was a failing student, though his sister shined in school. His disappointed father urged him to join the clergy, but although Darwin spent many hours each day reading the Bible, his passion was with nature. After a friend invited him on a long voyage to South America to serve as the naturalist on board a ship called The Beagle, Darwin had found his true calling. I like that this book mentions his early struggles so children can understand that not everyone who is smart and accomplished successfully mastered every aspect of his early life.
In the pages of the book, we learn of the many plants and animals Darwin observed on his long journey, and how he viewed the world only as a true scientist would. He noted minute details and questioned so much of what he saw. His observations led him to realize that animals of the same species differed slightly from island to island in the Galapagos. The outcome of his great voyage was Darwin’s theory that species changed over time to adapt to their environment, stating that sometimes the most minuscule changes may have taken millions of years. Naturally Darwin’s theory of evolution was not received well by many religious people of his time. To this day there remains controversy among some over Darwin’s theories. Yet still we can all greatly benefit from learning about Darwin’s life and work, and One Beetle Too Many is a great way to introduce readers ages 7 to 12 years old, the scientific world of naturalist Charles Darwin.
Regular Good Reads With Ronna contributor Debbie Glade gave us this informative review. Glade is the author, illustrator and voice talent of the award-winning children’s picture book The Travel Adventures of Lilly P Badilly: Costa Rica, published by Smart Poodle Publishing. She visits South Florida schools with her reading, writing and geography programs. For years, Debbie was a travel writer for luxury cruise lines. She writes parenting articles for various websites and is the Geography Awareness Editor for WanderingEducators.com. She blogs daily at smartpoodlepublishing.com.