Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin

One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin

Kathryn Lasky
Illustrator:  Matthew Trueman 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 7 to 12
Candlewick Press, 2009   ISBN: 076361436X

Charles Darwin was not a very good student when it came to learning mathematics, Greek, and Latin. This is not to say that he was not a clever boy. He was a superb amateur naturalist and longed to spend his life exploring the mysteries of nature. His father had different ideas however. He first tried to get his son to follow in his footsteps and become a doctor. Alas for Dr. Darwin for his son hated the sight of blood. He then tried to get Charles to join the clergy. Though Charles was grateful for the fact that he no longer was expected to dissect dead bodies, he did not like the clerical life either.

Then one of Charles’ professors at Cambridge University arranged for Charles to get offered a job on an expedition. The expedition would be exploring the coast of South America, and Charles would be in charge of collecting rock, animal, and plant specimens, and recording what he saw. Though his father was not in favor of this idea, Charles finally prevailed upon his stern parent to let Charles go. And thus an extraordinary time in Charles’ life began.

In this marvelous picture book Kathryn Lasky tells the story of Charles Darwin’s adventure on the H.M.S Beagle and she perfectly captures Charles’ extraordinary insight into the natural world. She highlights the uneasy and often contentious relationship between Charles and the Robert Fitzroy, who was the captain of the Beagle. She then goes on to tell her readers about “The Idea That Scared the World,” and describes how Charles came to write “The Origin of Species.”

Kathryn Lasky’s winning text is complimented by Matthew Trueman’s marvelous multimedia artwork. With great skill Matthew incorporates, paper, string, and real pressed flowers and leaves into his artwork, giving his pictures a very unique feel.