ONE BEETLE TOO MANY: THE EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURES OF CHARLES DARWIN; Kathryn Lasky, illustrated by Matthew Trueman; Somerville, MA: Candlewick, 2009; unpaged.
At first I thought Matthew Trueman's illustrations were a bit juvenile-looking for Lasky's serious subject, but text and pictures end up to be perfectly complementary as we follow the young, endlessly fascinated Darwin through his childhood of beetle collecting (once finding three he wanted to take home, he put one in his mouth to free his hands for the other two), and then on his monumental voyage of discovery on the Beagle. Throughout the expedition, the vessel's captain, Robert Fitzroy, provided the foil for Darwin's discoveries in terms of contemporary religious belief in an unchangeable, inviolate Creation and Lasky expertly presents the one, then the other. She also faces the religious issue square-on: "Even though Darwin believed in change, that did not mean that he did not believe in God or a Creator. He would later write in reply to a question about his religion, 'I do not believe in the Bible as divine revelation and therefore not in Jesus Christ as the Son of God.' But he did believe in a Creator who had 'originally breathed' life in to the earliest forms of living things." Whatever your belief, strictly creationist, strictly evolutionary biology, or the combination of the two many of us hew to, one could hardly go wrong using One Beetle too Many as a starting point for discussions about everything from the scientific method, to the wonders of the natural world, to the connection between theology and science.