Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The True Adventures of Charley Darwin

The True Adventures of Charley Darwin

Carolyn Meyer
Historical Fiction
For ages 12 and up
Harcourt Children's Books, 2009   ISBN: 978-0152061944

It is 1818 and eight-year-old Charley Darwin is being sent to boarding school. Until now, Charley has had a very happy life playing with his siblings and learning the lessons his big sister Caroline has taught him. Charley does not want this charmed life to change, and he is very reluctant to go to the Shrewsbury School, but he has no choice.

The Shrewsbury School turns out to be even worse that Charley imagined it would be. The lessons are horribly dull, the bedroom that he sleeps in is dreadful, the boy he shares his bed with is a bully, and none of the boys ever get enough to eat. Charley lives for the days when he is allowed to go home, and he does his best to get through the days at school. Charley’s singular lack of enthusiasm for his studies greatly worries his father. Doctor Darwin wonders what Charley will do when he grows up. How will his youngest son live his life?

Charley has no clue what he wants to do when he is adult, so when his father decides to send Charley to medical school, Charley acquiesces. The idea has some appeal, until Charley attends the required lectures that include dissections. Then he has to watch as some poor living person is operated on. It is all too much, and Charley decides to focus his attentions on his interests in natural history instead.

Dr. Darwin is furious when Charley tells him that he (Charley) cannot possibly be a doctor. It is decided that Charley should become a man of the cloth instead. The idea of a simple life that will allow him to continue to pursue his interest in animals, plants, and geology sounds quite attractive, though Charles does wonder if he is really the right kind of person to become a parson.

In the nick of time, Charley is offered a job that changes his life. A ship called the HMS Beagle is going to take a scientific expedition around the world, and Charley is going to be the on-board naturalist. The journey allows Charley to see and study all kinds of fascinating things, and when he comes home, he finally knows what he wants to do with the rest of his life.

In this fascinating book, Carolyn Meyer brings young Charles Darwin to life, allowing readers to better understand what he was like and how he became the man whose work had a huge impact on our understanding of the natural world. Carolyn Meyer used Charles Darwin’s own writings and many other documents to create a story that gives us a vivid and genuine picture of Charles Darwin’s world