One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin


A lively text and captivating images tell the story of the ever-curious boy who grew up to make one of the most significant discoveries of our time.

From the time Charles Darwin was a boy, he was happiest when he was out alone collecting specimens (especially beetles). And despite his father's efforts to turn young Darwin — a poor student — into a doctor or clergyman, the born naturalist jumped instead at the chance to sail around South America, observing and collecting flora ...

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A lively text and captivating images tell the story of the ever-curious boy who grew up to make one of the most significant discoveries of our time.

From the time Charles Darwin was a boy, he was happiest when he was out alone collecting specimens (especially beetles). And despite his father's efforts to turn young Darwin — a poor student — into a doctor or clergyman, the born naturalist jumped instead at the chance to sail around South America, observing and collecting flora and fauna all the way. In a clear, engaging narration, Kathryn Lasky takes readers along on Darwin's journey, from his discovery of seashells on mountaintops that revealed geological changes to his observations of variations in plants and animals, suggesting that all living things are evolving over time. Matthew Trueman's striking mixed-media illustrations include actual objects found in nature, enhancing this compelling look at the man behind the bold theory that would change the way we think about the world — and ourselves.

Describes the life and work of the renowned nineteenth-century biologist who transformed conventional Western thought with his theory of natural evolution.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Distilling tough concepts into light, conversational prose, Lasky (John Muir) gives middle-graders a just-right introduction to Charles Darwin. In colorful, cut-to-the-chase language ( "He found anatomy class disgusting, and he once rushed out of an operating room, unable to stand the sight of blood"), 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. Taking advantage of the large trim size, Trueman (Noah's Mittens) up-ends perspective with multilayered mixed-media illustrations; mostly paint, these also incorporate bits of flowers and weeds as well as string, paper and fabric. Like the text, they aim for a homely, friendly style, as when young Darwin and his brother are shown gleefully exploding things in their homemade lab. Highly accessible. Ages 7-12. (Jan.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Children's Literature - Amy S. Hansen
At 26, Charles Darwin signed on as a naturalist for a surveying mission. It was a voyage that changed our world. Even though he was seasick, Darwin loved exploring. When the Beagle made its first port, Darwin scrambled onto the shore and looked at the tidal pools. "More than once he was squirted in the face by an octopus as he peered closely to observe the strange ‘blushes' by which the creature changed color." While most of the book is a true telling of Darwin's journey, Lasky and team made a mistake with the title story. "One Beetle Too Many" refers to a time when Darwin was collecting beetles while he was at Cambridge University. He picked up a beetle in each hand. When he saw the third, he put it in his mouth. The beetle objected and squirted a burning liquid into Darwin's mouth. Darwin spat out the beetle and lost one of the ones in his hand. Lasky's book starts the story but ends it before the beetle objects. This is an unfortunate error since the story is much funnier (and more accurate) with its punch line. The book also implies that Darwin is younger than college age during that event, since the next sentence explains that Darwin's mother died when he was eight. The image attached to this opening spread shows a very young Darwin running with his mouth full. Despite these failings, the text is captivating and contains a well-written explanation of evolution. Reviewer: Amy S. Hansen
School Library Journal

Gr 3-6

Large and humorous mixed-media illustrations will draw children to this large-format biography. Using watercolor, graphite pencil, gouache, acrylic ink, colored pencil, and collage, Trueman captures Darwin's world and adventures. Cartoonlike people have prominent noses, expressive faces, and enormous hands. 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. Touching briefly on his childhood, the text devotes most of the space to Darwin's years on the Beagle , explaining how his discoveries in geology, paleontology, and animal anatomy on that trip led to his theory about evolution. Lasky uses Darwin's own words to show that he questioned the literal nature of the Bible and the divinity of Jesus, but that he wrote several times praising God as the Creator. 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

Kirkus Reviews
The upcoming bicentennial of Darwin's birth has already increased interest in his life and theories. Lasky, whose lively style has brought innumerable individuals, both well-known and obscure, to life for young audiences, makes an unexpected misstep here with a conversational narrative that is confusingly disjointed. A teeny-tiny note on the copyright page acknowledges that the event that gives the book its title, a collecting expedition in which Darwin transported three unusual beetles at once by holding one in each hand and the third in his mouth, did not take place in his young childhood, as implied by her version. Changing history, even in so minor a way, is an inauspicious beginning. From there Lasky jumps from event to event with little transition, stuffing Darwin's life into the remaining pages, an approach which seems likely to confuse child readers. Trueman's illustrations, though appealing, contribute to the confusion. The inclusion of various natural objects adds interest and complements the subject, but the oversized heads and button eyes of his characters create an incongruously cartoonish feel. A disappointing effort. (Biography. 8-10)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763658212
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 3/13/2012
  • Pages: 48
  • Sales rank: 1,504,483
  • Age range: 7 - 10 Years
  • Lexile: 1050L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 10.60 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Meet the Author


Matthew Trueman spent his childhood in Italy but returned to the United States to attend art school. He is the illustrator of A PICTURE FOR MARC and NOAH'S MITTENS. He lives in Phillipsburg, New Jersey.

Of ONE BEETLE TOO MANY, he says: "The illustrations in this book started out as drawings created with acrylic inks, watercolor, and graphite pencil. I moved up the food chain to add gouache and colored pencil. After sealing the pictures with acrylic medium, I did my thicker acrylic painting, then fooled around a little more with graphite and colored pencil. Finally, I added the collage elements, including paper, string, and weeds and wildflowers from my yard and nearby ditches and fields."

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