Scientists in Colombia have been very busy. One group has recently identified 10 new species of living amphibians, nine kinds of frogs plus one type of salamander, and another group has discovered the skeletal remains of a ginormous snake, so large that it could easily have swallowed something as large as a cow. The snake, Titanoboa cerrejonensis was between 42 and 45 feet long, and weighed more than a ton.
The scientists making news today for their discoveries of species in South America (both living and extinct) are following in the shoes of Charles Darwin, who is featured in a number of children's books this year because 2009 marks the 200th anniversary of his birth in 1809. Back on January 19th, Kathleen Krull talked about One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin by Kathryn Lasky, illustrated by Matthew Trueman. Later this month, author/illustrator Rosalyn Schanzer will be posting here at I.N.K., and I can only hope she'll be talking about her new book, What Darwin Saw: The Journey That Changed the World, which incorporates information from Darwin's journals.
But today, I'm talking about Animals Charles Darwin Saw: An Around-the-World Adventure by Sandra Markle, illustrated by Zina Saunders. The book provides a full biography of Charles Darwin's life, with particular focus on his travels and collecting activities while traveling aboard the Beagle, and with his development of what has become known as the theory of evolution (which did not, incidentally, include any reference whatsoever to the evolution of humans).
Want to see one of the two-page spreads so you can be completely wowed by the artwork? I'll bet you do, so here's one:
Each two-page spread contains amazing images, a decent chunk of text, and a text box that includes an interesting detail or bit of trivia.
The book explains what Darwin studied, how he got interested in science, and what his duties aboard the Beagle entailed. When he was in South America, he discovered ancient skeletons of extinct species, which caused him to question what he'd been taught: that animals were created as is, and always had been that way. Later, in the Galapagos Islands, he noted similarities and differences in species of birds, lizards, and tortoises living on various islands. He eventually concluded that the various species had adapted to suit their specific habitat, thereby laying the foundation for his later theories.
The book includes useful tools including a note to parents and teachers, a table of contents, a map of the Beagle's voyage, a glossary, a list of additional resources, and a handy dandy index. In short, it's a teacher's dream, and makes using the book as a source super-easy.