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The Picture-Book Club > August 2018: Charles Darwin (Books Announced)

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message 2: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (new)

Kathryn | 5638 comments Mod
I will be mostly absent from the discussion as we are moving once again and will be between libraries and quite busy. I know Gundula and Cheryl expressed interest in this topic over in the theme suggestions thread and I hope that they will be able to comment frequently, and that others interested in the topic will be able to obtain the books and join the discussion, too. Cheers!


message 3: by Manybooks (new)

Manybooks | 7022 comments Mod
Kathryn wrote: "I will be mostly absent from the discussion as we are moving once again and will be between libraries and quite busy. I know Gundula and Cheryl expressed interest in this topic over in the theme su..."

You are moving again? Oh wow, hope it will not be too stressful.


message 4: by Manybooks (last edited Jul 29, 2018 12:28PM) (new)

Manybooks | 7022 comments Mod
Sandra Markle's Animals Charles Darwin Saw: An Around the World Adventure is part of a series of stand alone picture books featuring famous historical figures (explorers like Charles Darwin, Marco Polo and others) and focusing especially on the diverse animal species they encountered during their travels and journeys of discovery.

Now as an extensive but basic and concise introduction in picture book format to the life and times of explorer and scientist Charles Darwin (and his extensive travels and research as naturalist aboard the H.M.S. Beagle and according to the book title, Animals Charles Darwin Saw , the many different and unique animal species Darwin encountered and observed in Central and South America), author Sandra Markle has done truly a remarkable (with no pun intended) job both simply and indeed adequately, informatively presenting Charles Darwin as a historical figure (and scientist, explorer, not to mention as the father of the theory of evolution) for and to older children above the ages of seven or so (for although Animals Charles Darwin Saw is indeed a picture book, there is in my opinion a bit too much detailed text, there are too many printed words to consider this for the very young, even if one were to read Animals Charles Darwin Saw aloud to them).

And although personally and academically, I actually and definitely would have appreciated and even wanted, required a bit more detail and historical, biological facts and information (especially with regard to the Galapagos Islands and how in particular, Darwin's observations and explorations of the fauna of said islands were instrumental to his theory of evolution, were what basically jump started his reflections on how animals and different species of animals have developed and changed over time, in various and different areas, continents of the earth) I do in fact very much realise and understand that for the intended audience, Animals Charles Darwin Saw is exactly right, and thus shows an absolutely and entirely appropriate amount of detail without becoming potentially distracting or overloading (with the fact that Sandra Markle's narrative is also not simply dryly informational but reads both flowingly and personably, even sometimes a bit chattily, the stylistic, the narrative icing on an already delicious cake).

Now as to Zina Saunders' accompanying illustrations, I have to admit that while I do appreciate them and think they work well enough with the author's, with Sandra Markle's presented narrative, I personally do not really like them all that much as works of art in and of themselves (they are indeed massively brightly rendered, descriptive and minutely visually informative, but for my own aesthetics, they seem almost a bit too overly realistic and actually rather cartoon-like in scope and feel). A bit of nuance, of atmospheric mood and mystery (especially considering that much of Charles Darwin's explorations took place in the jungles of South America) would have made Saunders' illustrations a bit more esoteric, exotic and increasingly to my visual likes and tastes (for as they appear in Animals Charles Darwin Saw, while I can and do much appreciate the accompanying pictorials for their detailedness, I also simply do not in any way love them on a personal artistic level precisely because of said overuse of minute details and realism, and therefore regard them as a more than adequate but not in any way outstanding, not as yet spectacular complement to the text, to Sandra Markle's narrative). And finally, while I do indeed much appreciate and laud Sandra Markle for having included supplemental research and study information that greatly do increase the teaching and learning potential and value of Animals Charles Darwin Saw (a glossary, books and websites), I also really wish that she had not limited herself to providing just two book and two website suggestions (for while too many examples, while too many suggestions would or at least could prove distracting and even potentially confusing, for me, just having two recommendations for further reading and internet exploration on Charles Darwin is also a wee bit frustrating, almost as though one has been given a craved carrot to pursue and then having it snatched away at the last minute). But even with this minor quibble (and potential caveat), Sandra Markle's Animals Charles Darwin Saw is still and nevertheless to be most highly recommended, with a strong and solid three and half star ranking (but not quite four stars, as I did not enjoy Zina Saunders' illustrations enough to warrant rating this book with four stars).


message 5: by Manybooks (new)

Manybooks | 7022 comments Mod
The Tree of Life: Charles Darwin

Although and indeed thankfully not quite as massively and painfully difficult on the eyes and thus also not quite as personally frustrating to and for me as Peter Sís' Caldecott Honour winning picture book on Galileo (which I actually ended up really NOT liking at all because I literally could not physically read much if not most of the supplemental information presented) his The Tree of Life: Charles Darwin (Which of course is all about about the life and accomplishments of 19th century British naturalist Charles Darwin, the so called "father of the theory of evolution"), also does still display some of the same issues and annoyances as the former (namely a generally decent and engaging enough main narrative, with much interesting and valuable supplemental information that is unfortunately presented in very small, actually more like minuscule font sizes so as to often necessitate the use of reading glasses and sometimes even a magnifying glass).

Combined with the fact that The Tree of Life: Charles Darwin also does not (and once again) contain ANY type of a bibliography with suggestions for further reading (which would greatly increase both teaching and learning values and potentials and should really be a given and even a requirement for this type of history of science based non fiction picture book), while I do much appreciate the information presented and find especially the fact that Charles Darwin had not only issues with the general British establishment with regard to his theories of natural science and evolution (especially and namely the Church) but also with his own nearest and dearest, with his own family (and especially his father obviously much resented his son becoming a naturalist) both interesting and worthy of being more publicly known, presented and discussed, the manner in which Peter Sís has decided to show, to feature most of the additional details (the information above and beyond the main plot and narrative) does make a comfortable and easy perusal of The Tree of Life: Charles Darwin rather limited (and definitely often more of a reading chore than in any manner a pleasure).

With regard to the accompanying illustrations, while I do think they are descriptive and intriguingly detailed (and very much demonstrate Peter Sís' artistic acumen and abilities), I for one and personally find some of them a bit overly exaggerated (even potentially creepy) and the often green and brown colour schemes a bit monotonous and bland. The illustrations do work well enough with the presented text, providing an entrancing and evocative mirror of the same, but I cannot say that I would consider them in any way personal favourites (and actually would go so far as to state that I have enjoyed other artwork by Peter Sís considerably more than his illustrations for The Tree of Life: Charles Darwin). And thus, while I do still recommend The Tree of Life: Darwin, I do so only with some major reservations (and with the caveat that there are sadly once again potential issues with being able to easily read and discern much of the supplemental details).


message 6: by Manybooks (new)

Manybooks | 7022 comments Mod
One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin

While Kathryn Lasky's One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin is of course not a comprehensive and all encompassing biography of Charles Darwin (but rather a short and concise picture book format analysis and interpretation of his life and times, primarily geared towards older children from about the age of nine onwards), it is most definitely more than thorough enough to adequately and indeed also with a lively and readable, approachable narrative cover and examine Darwin's life and his oh so important contributions to science and the history of science (with the author's text of course and naturally focussing in particular on Charles Darwin's voyages employed as chief naturalist on the H.M.S. Beagle and how his travels, how the many different species of animals, as well as the different landscapes and geologic features Darwin saw and encountered whilst on his journeys helped to both jump start and later firmly cement into place his theory of evolution, and that the earth was thus and indeed not just thousands of years but millions upon millions of years old, with the majority of changes happening slowly, evolving over long periods of time and that the earth, including us humans, was therefore also not created in one short seven day stretch as is related in the Old Testament of the Bible).

And truly, One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin is in my humble opinion not only a great but also a very much balanced introduction to Darwin and his theory of evolution, showing both Darwin's life and the many critcisms and struggles he encountered with regard to his findings, musings and resulting theories (both from his nearest and dearest, from his family, and of course and I guess naturally, also from the establishment, and that his theories were attacked and often severely and lastingly so by not only the clergy but also by many scientists of Darwin's era). But appreciably and for me personally very much laudable, Kathryn Lasky also always strives to point out that while Charles Darwin did not consider the Bible as infallible and thus also did not consider the creation story as related in Genesis as in any manner true and believable, he also ALWAYS did believe in God as the creator and that his theory of evolution actually is thus a decidedly deistic type of consideration, with God providing the spark so to speak and then evolution kicking in with life etc. changing slowly and according to natural selection over long time frames (and considering that I myself am very much a deistic evolutionist, I have most certainly heartily appreciated reading about and realising in One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin that the so-called father of evolution, that Charles Darwin himself, obviously also was a strong believer in deism and that while many staunch creationists might indeed claim that Charles Darwin was an atheist, he obviously was NOT that by any stretch of the imaginatiom, for while he might have with justification questioned the Bible's veracity and even the divinity of Jesus Christ, Charles Darwin never ever did question or deny the concept of there being a creator, of there being a supreme deity.

Now with regard to Matthew Truman's accompanying illustrations, while I have found them expressive and at times even rather fun, personally, I do find especially the often caricature like human figures a trifle too unserious for my own personal amd aesthetic tastes (and with that I mean to say that while I do like and enjoy Trueman's pictures, I am actually really neither all that much impressed nor am I unimpressed, that they do provide a decent accompaniment to and for Kathryn Lasky's narrative, but that to and for me, One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin does not really even require illustrations and that if truth be told, the illustrations and especially the at times a bit exaggerated facial features of the humans depicted kind of feel a bit potentially visually distracting to me). Four stars for One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin (and highly recommended), with the inclusion of the short but detailed bibliography at the back being the absolute icing on the cake for me (and while an accompanying bibliography really should be totally expected and a basic requirement in and for a completely non fiction biography on Charles Darwin, the fact that there so often is a lack of such for me oh so academically necessary inclusions in especially non fiction books geared to children, this indeed does make me appreciate that Kathryn Lasky has included a detailed and informative bibliography all the more).


message 7: by Manybooks (last edited Aug 02, 2018 06:57AM) (new)

Manybooks | 7022 comments Mod
Charles Darwin and the Theory of Natural Selection

Although Alan Hesse's Charles Darwin and the Theory of Natural Selection does indeed present a decent and informative enough introduction to Darwin's journeys, his discoveries and how he came to consider that life on earth is millions upon millions of years old and slowly changed over time through evolution and natural selection, I cannot say that I in any way really enjoyed this book or even learned anything new. The graphic novel format used by the author is actually and sadly pretty pedestrian and standard, and considering that the font sizes of the printed words are so small as to often require a magnifying glass, trying to even adequately peruse Charles Darwin and the Theory of Natural Selection has been more of a frustrating reading chore than in any manner a pleasure, with the result for me personally that Alan Hesse's presented text would have had to have been outstanding and glowingly spectacular for me to have actually enjoyed or been enchanted and enlightened by Charles Darwin and the Theory of Natural Selection. And this has most certainly not been the case here by any stretch of my imagination, as the narrative, while I guess adequate for a basic introduction on Charles Darwin also does not ever really shine, and the few lame attempts at humour, such as when for example, a returned to England Charles Darwin is studying an Orang-Utan at the London Zoo and musing over her perhaps being related to humans, it is Jenny the ape who is described by author Alan Hesse as thinking and believing that humans and apes are related (but that humans are to her not as evolved as apes), while perhaps mildly funny, this does not really belong in a non fiction biographical and scientific sketch on Darwin and the theory of evolution (at least in my humble opinion).

Combined with the fact that I really did not and still do not aesthetically enjoy the accompanying illustrations all that much either (very cartoon like, with many of the human characters and figures looking like cardboard caricatures that at times actually remind me of some of the not so acceptable renditions of people in some of the Tintin comic books) and even though I do well realise that Charles Darwin and the Theory of Natural Selection is indeed a graphic novel in format, personally I really cannot grant more than two stars at best, as aside from my criticisms of the at times lacking and frustrating text (and how small it is, how hard on my eyes it has proven to be) and the (to and for me) aesthetically rather majorly displeasing illustrations, there is also (and sadly, frustratingly) no bibliographies, no suggestions for further reading and study included, which not only should be part and parcel to ANY non fiction book on Charles Darwin but also and obviously seriously limits the teaching, learning and research value of Charles Darwin and the Theory of Natural Selection (and certainly would not really make this book all that successful for potential classroom or homeschooling use).


message 8: by Manybooks (last edited Aug 02, 2018 07:46AM) (new)

Manybooks | 7022 comments Mod
Charles Darwin: British Naturalist

Now I was and remain more than a wee bit disappointed with regard to Diane Cook's Charles Darwin: British Naturalist. For although the book is indeed a decent enough general introduction to Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution, personally, I have found it rather annoying and frustrating that the author spends so much time analysing and interpreting Charles Darwin's childhood and young adulthood and how he became interested in science, in botany, zoology, geology etc., while his five year journey as naturalist on the HMS Beagle (which of course was oh so important for Darwin's theory of evolution and natural selection), his married life post his return to England and how Charles Darwin then solidified his scientific observations into a cohesive theory based on science and fact, fossils, observations and not biblical dogma and/or speculation, seems to be and feel somewhat majorly rushed and actually given what I can only call short shrift.

Combined with the fact that there is also no bibliographical information whatsoever included for further study and research, Diane Cook's Charles Darwin: British Naturalist has definitely been quite a major reading disappointment to and for me. And while the author's presented narrative is actually for the most part adequately engaging and reads easily enough (for the intended audience, for children above the age of nine or so) with accompanying illustrations by Vitali Konstantinov that are visually interesting and appealing, albeit they do tend to remind me a trifle of Russian iconography at times, the informational gaps and holes and what has not been sufficiently depicted, described and interpreted for me, as well as the complete lack of any source acknowledgments and bibliographical information whatsoever has made me only consider two stars at best for Charles Darwin: British Naturalist and not really recommend Charles Darwin: British Naturalist all that readily either, as there are many books, and even some very good picture books geared to children, to younger audiences, that are much more intensively extensive and contain more relevant scientifically important information and details, and indeed, also do spend ample time and effort describing what in particular and importantly shaped Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, namely his voyages on the Beagle, and the many wonders of nature he observed during his time away from England.


message 9: by Manybooks (last edited Aug 02, 2018 11:29AM) (new)

Manybooks | 7022 comments Mod
So far my hands down favourite has been Kathryn Lasky's One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin, although I also very much enjoyed Sandra Markle's Animals Charles Darwin Saw: An Around the World Adventure, even though some of the illustrations are a bit too cartoonlike for me.

The Peter Sis book, The Tree of Life: Charles Darwin is massively informative, but like with other Peter Sis books, the supplemental information is rendered in a miniscule font that basically makes my eyes and head ache (and the illustrations are a bit too dark and sometimes even creepy).

And I was sadly disappointed with both Diane Cook's Charles Darwin: British Naturalist and Alan Hesse's Charles Darwin and the Theory of Natural Selection. Diane Cook spends way too much time analysing Darwin's childhood and then seems to rush through both his voyages aboard the HMS Beagle and how Darwin uses his discoveries and observations to discover and generate his theory of evolution and Alan Hesse's graphic novel format is for one hard to read (with tiny letters for the printed text) and for two the accompanying illustrations are often caricacture like and overly exaggerated (not to mention that both books have NO bibliographical information included whatsoever, which is a total bonus with both Lasky and Markle, although Peter Sis also has not included bibliographies, sigh).

So if I were being asked which of the five books I have so far read I would recommend, I would strongly recommend both One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin and Animals Charles Darwin Saw: An Around the World Adventure, would slightly recommend The Tree of Life: Charles Darwin, but with reservations, but really cannot all that much recommend either the Diane Cook or the Alan Hesse offerings (although I guess that all of the books do indeed offer decent enough introductions to Charles Darwin).

Have not yet read Island: A Story of the Galápagos, but the illustrations look great.


message 10: by Cheryl, Newbery Club host (new)

Cheryl (cherylllr) | 6171 comments Mod
I concur that One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin is a great book. Good intro to the man, his times, his work, and public's ongoing discomfort with his ideas.

I wish I could get more books from the list, but really this one is the only one I feel that I need.


message 11: by Manybooks (new)

Manybooks | 7022 comments Mod
Cheryl wrote: "I concur that One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin is a great book. Good intro to the man, his times, his work, and public's ongoing discomfort with hi..."

The only other book really worth considering (but it is not nearly as good as the Lasky book) is Animals Charles Darwin Saw: An Around the World Adventure, the other ones are not worth it and I honestly think you would have the same vision and tracking issues that I had with the Peter Sis book.


message 12: by Steve (new)

Steve Shilstone | 184 comments Off specific topic, but the subject reminds me of an absolutely delightful Victorian childhood memoir, Period Piece by Gwen Raverat, a granddaughter of Darwin. Fascinating history and laugh out loud descriptions of people and customs.


message 13: by Manybooks (new)

Manybooks | 7022 comments Mod
Steve wrote: "Off specific topic, but the subject reminds me of an absolutely delightful Victorian childhood memoir, Period Piece by Gwen Raverat, a granddaughter of Darwin. Fascinating history and laugh out lou..."

That sounds delightful.


message 14: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (new)

Kathryn | 5638 comments Mod
Steve wrote: "Off specific topic, but the subject reminds me of an absolutely delightful Victorian childhood memoir, Period Piece by Gwen Raverat, a granddaughter of Darwin. Fascinating history and laugh out lou..."

It sounds great! Thanks for posting! :-)


message 15: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (new)

Kathryn | 5638 comments Mod
I read One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin a few years ago and really enjoyed it. I wasn't able to get any of the other books this month as we were moving but here's my review of "One Beetle"

I thoroughly enjoyed Lasky's picture book biography regarding Charles Darwin's life although the illustration style was not my favorite--I enjoyed them, but in some cases I didn't feel they really fit with the story in either feeling or depicting the described event(s). I felt that the illustrations were more suited for a younger picture book audience, whereas the text (in both style and length) suggested something more for the upper age range on picture books.

Still, as for the story itself, I feel Lasky did a good job of condensing Darwin's life into the brevity of a picture book without sacrificing style or substance. While certainly not comprehensive, it none the less covers his boyhood through his older years, with focus primarily on his exploration on the Beagle. Little details, such as Darwin being seasick and having to eat only raisins, or how he once tried to train earthworms, make Darwin feel like a real, interesting person--not some dusty figure from the past.

What I perhaps appreciated most about this particular biography is how Lasky deftly handled the "science vs. religion" aspect. On the Beagle, Captain Fitzroy provides the voice for the Christian perspective, as he was devoted to both the Bible and to science, though perhaps his temper made him seem a less than sympathetic individual at times--and even Darwin's own wife worried that her husband was losing his faith in God. Darwin's disbelief in the Bible as absolute truth, and in Jesus Christ as the Savior, has continued to trouble Christians even to this day, yet Darwin felt that his theories about evolution did not disprove God and that, if species could change over time, who else but God could make such marvelous things happen?

All in all, this is a fine if incomplete portrait of a complex, remarkably intelligent individual, husband and father who became (in his words), "A complete millionaire in odd and curious facts."


message 16: by Manybooks (new)

Manybooks | 7022 comments Mod
Kathryn wrote: "I read One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin a few years ago and really enjoyed it. I wasn't able to get any of the other books this month as we were mo..."

I would say that this was the best of the bunch although I also enjoyed [book:Animals Charles Darwin Saw: An Around the World Adventure|2449909.


message 17: by Manybooks (new)

Manybooks | 7022 comments Mod
Kathryn wrote: "I read One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin a few years ago and really enjoyed it. I wasn't able to get any of the other books this month as we were mo..."

Hope moving was not too stressful.


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