Friday, September 4, 2009


Picture Book
One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin by Kathryn Lasky and Illustrated by Matthew Trueman

Bibliographic Information:
Lasky, K. (2009). One beetle too many: The extraordinary adventures of Charles Darwin. Sommerville, MA: Candlewick Press.


From a young age, Charles Darwin was interested in collecting specimens of plants, insects, and observing all types of animals. He and his brother enjoyed experimenting with chemicals and caused lots of trouble in doing so. Charles' father, disappointed in Charles' grades at school, forced him to attend college to become a cleric. Charles did not enjoy his studies, but while there he meet a botany professor, John Henslow, who encouraged Charles to continue collecting his specimens. Later, John wrote to Charles to tell him that he had recommended Charles to participate in the British exploratory trip to the southern coasts of South America as their naturalist. It is during this time that Charles would observe, document, and save numerous samples of new and different species of animals and plants that would later become his life's work involving evolution.

Lead Comments:

One Beetle Too Many is a great book to introduce students to the study of evolution without the controversy that usually surrounds such lessons. Even Charles Darwin himself was conflicted by the evidence he collected and his religious beliefs. He was very reluctant to publish his extensive research and findings, knowing they would rock the world as it was perceived to be. Darwin eventually did publish his work under the title, The Origin of Species, as other scientists were coming to the same conclusions as himself. In his book, Darwin discusses natural selection and "survival of the fittest."
I found Darwin's discoveries regarding finches in the Galapagos Islands and their ability to adapt to their specific environments exciting. I also found the discovery of shells on a mountaintop to be interesting. Why these things occurred are what Darwin discusses in his book.


School Library Journal: (Excerpt)

Large and humorous mixed-media illustrations will draw children to this large-format biography. ...Trueman captures Darwin's world and adventures. Throughout, the naturalist appears to be both curious and hapless, a description he might have given himself in his own modest journals. Lasky's text balances the exuberant artwork with well-organized information, gracefully sprinkling in quotes from Darwin's own writing... Although the text is brief, it creates a clear view of a man who was troubled by the implications of his observations and who, at the end of his life, was more interested in experimenting with earthworms and carnivorous plants than in promoting his theory.-Ellen Heath, Easton Area Public Library, Easton, PA. (Retrieved November 20, 2009, from

Publishers Weekly:(Excerpt)
Distilling tough concepts into light, conversational prose, middle-graders a just-right introduction to Charles Darwin. In colorful, cut-to-the-chase language, she highlights Darwin's insatiable curiosity, his failures at school and his voyage aboard the Beagle. The author invites readers to follow Darwin's reasoning and the questions that led up to his theory of evolution. Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. (Retrieved November 20, 2009, from

Teacher Tools & Library Leads:

Biology teachers at any level can use this book to discuss a very controversial topic in a very nonthreatening way. For elementary students, One Beetle Too Many is a fun, historic look back at how science itself was studied and how important the powers of observation can be. For middle and high school students, the book can be used as an introductory lesson to the evolution of species, natural selection and survival of the fittest.

Take students outside on a nice day to observe bugs in the grass, birds in the trees, and the different types of plants. What do they notice? How does the ant survive even though it is so tiny? Why are some birds different colors? Why do some plants survive in this environment and others do not?

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