Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

What Mr Darwin Saw

What Mr Darwin Saw

Mick Manning, Brita Granstrom
Illustrator:  Mick Manning , Brita Granstrom 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 7 to 10
Frances Lincoln Children's Books, 2009   ISBN: 978-1845079703

Though Charles Darwin would one day become famous and rock the world with his book The Origin of Species, when he was a child he did not particularly impress his father who thought Charles was “a very ordinary boy.” Erasmus Darwin even went so far as to tell his son that he feared that Charles would be “a disgrace to yourself and your family.”

   Charles struggled in school and when his father sent him to Edinburgh University to study medicine, Charles proved that he did not have the stomach for doctoring. Charles suggested that perhaps he should “study to become a clergyman” instead.

   Unfortunately, Charles wasted his time at Cambridge University, just as he had done when we was in Edinburgh. Instead of studying to be a clergyman, he pursued his interests in natural history, spending hours collecting beetles. Even though it was clear that Charles was a naturalist at heart and loved to study nature, his father still wanted him to have a real profession.

   One day Charles got an offer that suited him perfectly. He was invited to join an expedition on the HMS Beagle, which was going to sail to South America. Charles’ father refused to allow Charles to go on the expedition until Charles’ uncle convinced him that he should let Charles go.

   The Captain of the Beagle, Captain Fitzroy, was given the job of surveying the coast of South America. During their journey across the Atlantic, Charles was miserably seasick, but when they got to land once again, he set about exploring the wild places there with great zeal. He made notes, drew pictures, and took samples of plant and animal life. He described in detail the many adventures and amazing things that he saw.

   Based on Charles Darwin’s own writings and written in the form of a series of journal entries, this entertaining and engaging picture book provides young readers with an excellent picture of what Charles Darwin’s life was like. Every double page spread includes a large illustration, a journal entry, and boxes containing additional artwork and notes. Touches of humor give children a sense of how exciting and often downright bizarre Charles Darwin’s adventures sometimes were.