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Galapagos George

Galapagos George

by Jean Craighead George

This is the story of the famous Lonesome George, a giant tortoise who was the last of his species, lived to be one hundred years old, and became known as the rarest creature in the world. His story gives us a glimpse of the amazing creatures inhabiting the ever-fascinating Galápagos Islands.

Renowned naturalist and bestselling author of the Newbery


This is the story of the famous Lonesome George, a giant tortoise who was the last of his species, lived to be one hundred years old, and became known as the rarest creature in the world. His story gives us a glimpse of the amazing creatures inhabiting the ever-fascinating Galápagos Islands.

Renowned naturalist and bestselling author of the Newbery Medal-winning Julie of the Wolves and the critically acclaimed Everglades Jean Craighead George once again introduces children to the wonders of the natural world in this incredible evolution story set in the Galápagos Islands. The back matter features key terms, a timeline, and further resources for research.

Supports the Common Core State Standards.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 02/03/2014
In a posthumously published story from award-winning author George, the author personalizes an evolutionary tale by spotlighting one species, the saddleback tortoises of Pinta Island. Beginning with a common ancestor, referred to as Giantess George, that originated in South America, the story traces the species’ arrival in the Galápagos and relates some of the islands’ history, including a visit from Charles Darwin. The book culminates with the death of the last of the Pinta Island saddlebacks, known as Lonesome George, which died within weeks of the author in 2012. Minor’s signature soft-edged watercolors fill the spreads with realism and muted hues. One particularly stunning scene brings readers face-to-face with Giantess George, a turquoise, star-filled sky in the background: “When she was almost two hundred years old, Giantess George died. But she left behind long-necked offspring who had longer-necked offspring, who had even longer-necked offspring.” Skillfully capturing the concept of adaptation in natural selection, this succinct story continues its creators’ tradition of inspiring awe and appreciation for the natural world. Ages 4–8. (Apr.)
The Horn Book
Minor’s painterly illustrations showcase the changing setting and the magnificence of the tortoises.
Shelf Awareness (Starred Review)
This beautiful homage conveys complex ideas in concrete ways so children can witness how these extraordinary tortoises survived so long in their particular habitats. Splendid.
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
The story begins around a million years ago in South America when a vegetarian giant tortoise named Giantess George is swept into the ocean in a storm. She and some other tortoises climb onto a raft of trees, coming ashore on San Cristobel Island. Giantess George lays eggs and lives much as she did before, but finds she must stretch her neck to reach the tree leaves she needs to eat. After many thousands of years the tortoises on San Cristobel all have long necks. Tortoises on other islands have evolved differently. When the islands are discovered in 1535, they become known as the Galápagos Islands, “Islands of the Tortoises.” When people begin to arrive, the tortoises become scarce. The last descendent of Giantess George died in 2012. The future is uncertain, but we know that “…new and unimaginable things” can always happen. The rather disjointed narrative is illustrated stunningly in watercolors with the tortoises in their habitat and other related creatures, mainly on double pages. Charles Darwin makes an appearance. There is much added information, including key terms, a time line, and resource list. Helpful maps are on the end pages. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz; Ages 4 to 8.
School Library Journal
Gr 1–3—This is an account of the evolution of the Galápagos Tortoise, as well as the life and death of a famous Galápagos tortoise named Lonesome George. When Lonesome George died in 2012, it marked the extinction of a species thousands of years old and perfectly adapted to living on the Galápagos Islands. The life of the tortoise and the plants and animals of its habitat are illustrated in vivid, brilliant color paintings on every page. A map of the Galápagos Islands spreads across the end papers and includes an inset of South America, placing the islands in their geographical context. The author explains the adaptations that led to the unique features of the species: the tortoise's "neck was a little longer than those of the other tortoises on the island, and she could eat the leaves of trees when the ground plants were gone." When humans caused too many drastic changes, such as the inadvertent introduction of predators, many individual tortoises could not adapt, and drastic declines in numbers of survivors led to extinction. A half page of definitions for key terms such as "adaptation" and "evolution" is included, as is a time line of the Galápagos Islands.—Frances E. Millhouser, formerly at Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Kirkus Reviews
The passing of Lonesome George, the last of the saddleback tortoises from the island of Pinta, provides the occasion to demonstrate how different species might descend from a common ancestor. Swept from her desert home by a storm and washed up on a distant island with some of her relatives, the elderly tortoise's imagined ancestor, Giantess George, was lucky. She was able to feed in her new home, to breed and to have numerous slightly differing descendants, each group adapted to its particular Galápagos island. The story continues with the arrival of humans, a visit by Charles Darwin and the transport of Giantess George's last descendent, Lonesome George, to a research center on Santa Cruz Island in the early 1970s. There, he lived out the rest of his life; no one ever found him a mate. When he died in 2012, he was thought to be over 100 years old. Minor's paintings are gorgeous, befitting the awesome Galápagos scenery and including representative plants and animals. But the posthumously published text oversimplifies. It describes Darwin speculating about the giant tortoises' common ancestor, but at the time, he didn't realize they were different species. It condenses the adaptation process. Even the backmatter doesn't use the phrase "natural selection," and the very important term "evolution" is defined incorrectly. A heartfelt if imperfect tribute to one George by another who will also be missed. (key terms, timeline, resources) (Picture book. 5-8)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
10.20(w) x 10.10(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Jean Craighead George wrote over one hundred books for children and young adults. Her novel Julie of the Wolves won the Newbery Medal in 1973, and she received a 1960 Newbery Honor for My Side of the Mountain. She continued to write acclaimed picture books that celebrate the natural world. Her other books with Wendell Minor include The Wolves Are Back; Luck; Everglades; Arctic Son; Morning, Noon, and Night; and Galapagos George.

Wendell Minor has illustrated numerous award-winning picture books, including Reaching for the Moon by Buzz Aldrin, Galapagos George by Jean Craighead George, and If You Were a Panda Bear by his wife, Florence Minor. Mr. Minor's art has been exhibited at the Norman Rockwell Museum, among other prestigious institutions throughout the country. He lives in rural Connecticut with Florence and their two cats.

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