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Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith
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Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  4,937 ratings  ·  1,068 reviews
Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species, his revolutionary tract on evolution and the fundamental ideas involved, in 1859. Nearly 150 years later, the theory of evolution continues to create tension between the scientific and religious communities. Challenges about teaching the theory of evolution in schools occur annually all over the country. This same debate raged within ...more
Hardcover, 268 pages
Published December 23rd 2008 by Henry Holt & Company
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Average rating 3.69  · 
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 ·  4,937 ratings  ·  1,068 reviews


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Tatiana
May 28, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in religion, science, and Charles Darwin
I picked up this book mostly because Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith is both the National Book Award and Printz runner-up. I don't know if it's because my expectations were too high or because this book is my first YA non-fiction, but I wasn't as wild about it as I expected to be.

Charles and E
...more
Bill
Jun 28, 2009 rated it liked it
I wanted to rate this book higher, but the more I considered its qualities, the more I opted for liking rather than really liking. Numerous parts of this book were highly interesting, and some I found quite moving; but two features kept getting in the way of an overall very satisfying reading experience for me. One was Heiligman's seeming desire to work in every tidbit about the Darwins that struck her as interesting, even if that bit of information ended up being obtrusive to the forward moveme ...more
Suzanne
Jun 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I actually really enjoyed this book a lot more than I expected. I found it well researched and just a great short read. Can you imagine how difficult and the personal berating Darwin had to have went through when he was having the internal debate of his work going public? Some still find his work controversial (even though it is widely accepted) so can you imagine how it was taken when it first went out into the world. Anyways, I found the story entertaining and a delivery of the story was done ...more
Dov Zeller
This book isn't fantastic, but it's good. An enjoyable description of the Darwins as a family. Though they had their fair share of illness, loss and struggle, they seem an uncommonly happy family. They had an uncanny ability for finding joy in each other and in their work.

It is strange to read about the family and to know there are butlers, maids, servants of various kinds running around, doing a lot of work, and barely acknowledged, though at least some of them named. I guess is is just part o
...more
Carolynne
May 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
I had no interest in either Charles Darwin or his wife before reading this book, but Heiligman's biography kept me riveted from start to finish. Darwin took a very pragmatic approach to marriage, compiling a list of pros and cons, before he decided to take the step that would radically change--and improve--his life; and did this before he decided on the woman! Emma Wedgwood was a deeply religious person and Darwin, her cousin, had embarked on a course of biological study that caused him serious ...more
Judy
Apr 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
While this targets young adults, it's appropriate for any adult who is interested in Darwin and/or his theory of evolution but doesn't want a heavy read. I've read quite a bit about Darwin, but still enjoyed this book (and I learned a little more). Especially well-done is the way Heiligman handled the tension between the Darwins about the connection between science and religion. There are many quotes from CD's books, letters, and notes, all of which contribute to an understanding of the man. ...more
Josephine
Apr 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: informational
Name: Josephine Wold

APA Citation: Heiligman, D. (2009). Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ leap of faith. New York: Henry Holt and Company.

Genre: informational

Award: 2009 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature Finalist
2010 Michael L. Printz Honor Book
L.A. Time Book Prize Finalist
Winner of the 2010 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award

Format: Print

Selection process:
1) Starred review by Booklist. Reviews by School Libra
...more
Donalyn
Jun 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Starting my career as a science teacher, I have always been fascinated with Darwin's work. I did not know much about his personal life, though. I enjoyed learning about the Darwins, their marriage and family life, and the tension they both felt about reconciling their religious beliefs with his scientific discoveries.
Jessica (The Psychotic Nerd)
This and other reviews can be found on The Psychotic Nerd

Short and Simple Review
This book was really out of my comfort zone. I don't really read biographies, but I challenged myself to read all of the Printz award winners and this book came recommended by my YA lit teacher a while back. I had to change the way I typically read books because I found when reading this book that I need to take more breaks than when reading fiction. Even though I kind of slugged my way through this book, I ended up finding
...more
Brian Eshleman
May 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
It is disconcerting to my unspoken preconceptions that one can be likable, curious, enthusiastic, humble in most respects, and a great husband and parent all while defying the Gospel one knows better than most believers in it. Nevertheless, I should not be surprised at these descriptors of Charles Darwin as he comes across on these pages. Jesus said, did He not that we, evil apart from His intervention, know how to give good gifts to our children?

The author does a good job conveying
...more
Liane
Jan 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I never thought I would read a biography about Charles Darwin (I'm not keen on literary non-fiction), much less cry buckets over one and want to sleep with it under my pillow. The book is "Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith" by Deborah Heiligman. To boot, I now have a raving admiration and crush on Charles Darwin, he who spent his life studying barnacles and finches and chimps in the London zoo (en route to revolutionizing everything we know about the world). But so much more than a bi ...more
Jessica Broadhead
Mar 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
A thoughtful and balanced account of the marriage between Charles Darwin and his wife Emma. Can I just say that Darwin fascinates me? I’ve been interested in him ever since I read The Beak of the Finch, which mostly deals with the scientists who proved his theory — using Galapagos finches, no less — but touches on Darwin himself and the voyage that, in part, set him on his path. What really struck me was how he worried himself sick over his own ideas — not because he thought they were wrong, but becau ...more
Emily
Feb 17, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: engl-420-ya-lit
REQUIRED
"Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith" is the story of the relationship between Charles Darwin and his family, particularly his religiously devout wife Emma. The book's stated purpose is to illustrate the balance the couple achieved between the religious and the scientific. I personally found the intentions of the book to be greater than its ability to deliver. The writing throughout suffers from a misunderstanding of its audience. Though it is aimed at the YA crowd, I thin
...more
Iosephvs Bibliothecarivs
Feb 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
I started reading this curious book (a study of the Darwins' marriage written for teens?) on Darwin Day (February 12, 2016). I was interested in learning more about how they made their long and mixed-belief relationship work (throughout their 40+ years together, Charles was a sceptic and Emma was a believer). Turns out, it was the things that we already know make strong relationships: mutual respect, communication, love, open minds, trust, physical touch, shared goals. What a great story. The au ...more
Marsha
Apr 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
A fascinating view of Charles and Emma Darwin's courtship and marriage. Emma was very religious but Charles considered himself a non-believer because he could not reconcile his research with the religious beliefs of the day. And the religious views of the day were quite literal, without room for disagreement, and, honestly, quite horrible. It is ironic that Darwin had to choose between religion and science because society and the church could not accept both, but now religious people can agree w ...more
Stephanie
Jun 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a biography of Charles Darwin and his wife Emma. I wouldn't have thought that I'd like it, but so many people were talking it up I gave it a try and I really enjoyed it. The relationship between this scientist who didn't believe in God and his very religious wife makes for a great parallel to the larger controversy between science and certain religious communities.

Interesting side note: when I booktalked this book at the middle school in Maple Valley, very few students knew w
...more
Cathy
May 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
I found this in the young adult section of the library. A fascinating look into 19th century life in general, and into a happy marriage in particular. Darwin married his first cousin, had ten children (seven survived), and worked productively throughout a lifetime of illness and pain. That is the part that impressed me the most. How could he work through ill health? How could he have worked with all those unruly kids running around and jumping on the couch? I guess it helped to have inherited mo ...more
Adrienne Pettinelli
What a life the Darwins lived! Charles and Emma's devotion to each other is as inspirational as Charles's devotion to science, and I love how Heiligman weaved so much about science, religion, and Victorian society into their story while keeping the pace of the book moving along. I feel like anyone who loves a good story will love this book, but it's especially good for readers who are interested in history, science, or the Victorians. Or, like me, all three.
Lana Shupe
Jul 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Audio version kept me company while doing housework over last few days. An absolutely beautiful telling of a wonderful love story. Charles and Emma Darwin loved each other with gentleness, compassion and support. They suffered great sorrow and loss and still maintained their ability to love through all.
Walter
Feb 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
One of the best nonfiction books I read last year! Love the detail, the voices, and the mix of personal and scientific information. I thought this was a 2008 publication and eligible for awards this past year, but we are going to have to wait until next year for this book to receive its due.
SaraKat
Apr 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this story, but I may have been biased because of my love of Darwin's story and science in general. I admire Charles and Emma's philosophies and lives. They were a kind and thoughtful couple who wanted the best for everyone. I liked the way their families were open and children were allowed to voice opinions and have their own thoughts. They were progressive in a time when most people of their class were oppressing labor and endorsing slavery and barely seeing their children. I liked h ...more
Gail
Oct 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
I read this for book group but won't be there to discuss, darn it. It was interesting! I didn't know a thing about Darwin except for his famous theory. He did not believe in a God (I'm sure you all knew that) but his wife was very religious. He debated keeping his feelings a secret from her before they married, but didn't. They had a really beautiful and happy marriage with a ton of kids, 3 of whom died. He was a very loving and dedicated father. Darwin was sick almost all of time until he got o ...more
Sandi Banks
Oct 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book about the relationship of Charles Darwin and his wife Emma Wedgwood. This is a young adult biography that gives very helpful information about Darwin’s scientific work and family interactions. There was disagreement of religion vs Darwin’s scientific ideas. Both Charles and Emma are caring people who value their family.
I read this book for greater Insight into the Darwins, I am currently on a Darwin experience in England organized by a professor at CSUCI.
Sherry
Jul 16, 2017 rated it liked it
This book focuses on Charles's and Emma's relationship with each other and with their children. Although it does discuss Charles Darwin's research, it does not go into a lot of depth there. Mostly I found this book inspiring in regards to being a more loving wife and mother.
Donna
Jul 14, 2017 rated it liked it
An interesting look at Darwin's work, from a more family oriented perspective, rather than scientific. The detail of life, especially the illnesses and early deaths were sobering. Parts of it were very educational and others very depressing. Not sure I would suggest if for a young adult.
Monica
Interesting intro to Darwin. I liked that it was about his life as a husband, father and scientist of many things, not just about Origin.
Susan
Jul 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
I didn't expect to enjoy listening to this as much as I did! I also didn't expect such a sweet love story. I had no idea Charles Darwin was such a devoted husband and father. Quite enjoyable.
Ashley
Dec 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book wasn’t any of my usual subject matters - science and religion and history. But I’m SO glad I randomly picked it up! The conflict of Emma’s devout faith with Charle’s theory of evolution was really interesting. And then their marriage and relationship! Totally inspiring and heartwarming what great companions they were. I also appreciated all the grief and loss, having experienced some of that myself.
Ashley McNally
Mar 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ya-fiction
Love this story of Charles Darwin and his wife. They faced a lot of hardships in their life, but they come through each and every one of them more in love and always together.
Carolyn
Nov 03, 2011 rated it liked it
for CI 546

Overall response:
I thought this was a good biographical work (more a biography of a relationship than a biography of Darwin specifically), well-written and -researched, and certainly QUITE focused on (and successful at) showing a real picture of family life in Victorian times. On the other hand, I thought it was slow, sometimes pedantic, very sentimental, and probably appealing far more to adults than to kids (and in that sense, too slow and pedantic, as that was anno
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Play Book Tag: Charles and Emma - Heiligman - 4 atars 1 9 Apr 27, 2019 11:32AM  
Eclectic Readers: Charles and Emma 1 8 Jun 26, 2012 06:31PM  

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Deborah Heiligman has been writing for children since she worked at Scholastic News soon after college. Since then she has written more than thirty books for children and teens. Her books include picture books, both fiction and nonfiction, and young adult nonfiction and fiction. Some titles: Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith, a National Book Award finalist; The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improba ...more
“I wish you knew how I value you; and what an inexpressible blessing it is to have one whom one can always trust, one always the same, always ready to give comfort, sympathy and the best advice. God bless you, my dear, you are too good for me.' -Charles to Emma, 1859” 28 likes
“You must remember that you are my prime treasure (and always have been).'
Emma Darwin to husband Charles”
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