Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Inside the Beagle with Charles Darwin

Inside the Beagle with Charles Darwin

Fiona Macdonald
Illustrator:  Mark Bergin 
For ages 8 to 11
Enchanted Lion Books, 2005   ISBN: 1592700411

Though Charles Darwin is now considered to be one of the most famous people in the world, there was a time early in his life when Charles was considered “a failure.” He dropped out of medical school because he felt squeamish when he observed surgeries. He then began to prepare for a career in the church, but he could not summon up much enthusiasm for this line of work either. Thankfully, in 1831, he was offered the job of being the “naturalist” on an expedition. The expedition would last several years, and Charles would be traveling on the HMS Beagle. At last Charles could indulge his passion for birds, insects, plants, and other living things.

During the voyage, Charles acquired a great deal of information, data, and specimens. Back in England he was able to use what he had learned and observed to write one of the world’s most controversial books, The Origin of Species.

In this book, Fiona Macdonald and Mark Bergin tell the story of Charles Darwin’s journey. They begin by looking at the preparations that were made to make the Beagle ready for the journey ahead. Wonderfully detailed annotated illustrations show readers what the ship looked like inside and out. We are able to get a sense of what travel at this time was like, and how dangerous and uncomfortable it was. We get to ‘meet’ the crew, and we learn how sailors were able to navigate using maps, a sextant, a marine clock, and other simple tools.

Next the author and illustrator show us what the journey was like. Charles Darwin saw rainforests, the freezing lands at the tip of South American, the Galapagos Islands, Tahiti, New Zealand, and many other places. He saw many fascinating animals, plants, fossils, and peoples. Thankfully for us he collected many specimens, and he also kept detailed notes of all he saw and did.

This book, which is part of a series, will give young readers an excellent picture of what it might have been like to travel on the HMS Beagle with Charles Darwin and his companions. The author concludes her narrative by describing Charles Darwin’s life after he got back to England, and by looking at the theory that made him a famous man.