Darwin (Written by: Alice B. McGinty; Illustrated by: Mary Azarian)
March 2, 2009 in Azarian, Mary, Books with Science Content, Books with Science Content, Creative Writing activities, Elementary Educators, Making Personal Connections, McGinty, Alice B., Picture Book, Research Ideas Tags: Alice B. McGinty, Caldecott Award Winner, Charles Darwin, Darwin, Mary Azarian, picture books about scientists
Reviewed by Margo Dill, www.margodill.com, email@example.com
Picture book for children ages 6 to 9, although older children (and parents!) will enjoy it.
Charles Darwin as the main subject–this is a non-fiction book.
Rating: This book is fascinating. Alice McGinty took a difficult subject, Charles Darwin, and made us see inside his mind to become a part of his life. Not to mention, the beautiful illustrations by Mary Azarian, Caldecott Medal winner for Snowflake Bently, add charm to the text.
Short, short summary: Darwin begins with the naturalist’s life as a boy and his struggles during his college education. Then McGinty takes us on the sea voyage that changed Charles Darwin’s life. Even though he almost didn’t go on the voyage due to the shape of his nose and he was seasick the entire time, Darwin studied the geography of the land, gathered fossils and rocks, and took notes on the species he found and the nature he saw. When he returned to England with a collection of birds that he thought were all different species, he soon discovered that they were actually all finches. This was when Charles Darwin first thought that species evolved. McGinty’s book goes on to tell the reader about Darwin’s struggles with his new discoveries and his religious beliefs. By the end of the book, you will be a fan of Charles Darwin and his hard work, even if you aren’t sure of his theories.
So, what do I do with this book?
1. Many different types of scientists are mentioned in this book, and many of them worked with or helped Charles Darwin with his theories. While reading this book, make a list on chart paper of the different scientists listed, such as botanists, paleontologists, and ornithologists. Next to the names of the scientists, write down what each studies. Then you can do a few things with this list. Students can generate questions such as, “What is the name of a scientist who studies the human body or old tools found in the ground?” Students can also choose one of these scientists, do some research on what the job entails, and then write a paragraph pretending to be that scientist.
2. Depending on if you are using this book at home with your own children or with students in public or private school, you can ask students to write about what they think of Darwin’s theories. This is a great journal writing activity, and one where you can really see how your students gather information from a book and use it to form their own opinions. If you do not want to ask students to write whether they agree or disagree with Darwin’s theories, you can also assign students a journal prompt such as: “Charles Darwin loved to collect items and study them when he was young. Do you like to collect things? What do you like to collect? What do you notice about your collections? If you do not collect anything, why not? Would you like to start?”
3. McGinty includes a great quote by Darwin at the end of the book. “I have worked as hard and as well as I could, and no man can do more than this.” Ask your students what they think this quote means. Ask them to give you specific details from the book that show Darwin worked hard and accomplished something. Ask students or your children to share experiences with you and their classmates about a time when they worked hard to accomplish something, and how it felt when they reached their goals. If you want, you can turn this into a goal-setting activity, and ask each student to write one or two goals for the school year and how hard work will accomplish these goals.
Please leave a comment and share your thoughts about the book, Charles Darwin, or other activities you have used in this subject area. For more activities and information on Darwin, check out: Alice B. McGinty’s website.
photo by celerrimus www.flickr.com