Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Mr. Darwin, Mr. Darwin

It’s Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday! 


Island: A Story of the Galapagos by Jason Chin was one of my favourite nonfiction titles of 2012.

I bought a copy for my son for Christmas and he has been examining the detailed drawings and asking me questions about Darwin, his travels, his theories and all of the fascinating animals of the Galapagos.

This prompted me to look for other picture books on the same topic to share with my children and we have been spending our nightly read aloud time reading more about Mr. Darwin, his voyage on the HMS Beagle and his theories of evolution.

Both of the books described below would be best shared as interactive read alouds with an early intermediate class or for independent reading for children in Grade 4 and above. Some vocabulary and concepts would need support.

We started with A Natural History Museum selection – What Mr. Darwin Saw by Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom (published 2009). This book is written like a diary and includes amusing thought bubbles and detailed drawings of the animals and the places where Darwin travelled. End pages are a map of Darwin’s route on board the HMS Beagle. The final pages of the book explain Darwin’s theory of evolution with visuals of chalkboard drawings and notes. It offers the beginning of an understanding of Darwin’s complex ideas.   My children had some background knowledge on this topic already and so they were able to ask some informed questions to build on their understanding.

what mr darwin saw

Next we read The Tree of Life: Charles Darwin by Peter Sis (published 2003). I don’t know if read is the best way to describe our experience with this book. Instead we studied, examined and flipped back and forth through the pages learning about Darwin’s life. My children loved the maps, found the illustration with Darwin’s own family tree fascinating (“He had so many children!” “Lots of them died young.” “His wife must of been so tired and sad.”) and liked the lists that outlined his daily routines at different times in his life. (“How did his wife get anything done if she was always reading to him?” my daughter wanted to know after finding out that Emma read to Charles multiple times a day.) We found some of the drawings and text too small – stunning but hard to interact with. Maybe this book needs a magnifying glass!? Many illustrations were perfect though and made the topic so much richer. This book is certainly a biography – we learn much about Darwin’s upbringing and about his later life that Sis divides into the public, private and secret realms. I’m leaving this book out so that we can continue to pore over it.

Tree of Life

Looking to learn more about Charles Darwin? These three titles would be a great place to start!

Interested more in the concept of evolution? This book does a wonderful job of explaining it in a story that allows children to understand the concept.

Charlie and Kiwi. . . an evolutionary adventure – created by Peter H. Reynolds and the NewYork Hall of Science.

Shared in my classroom here.

Charlie and Kiwi

Thanks to Alyson from KidLit Frenzy for the inspiration to participate weekly in this challenge.


My original goal was 60 nonfiction picture books for 2013. Progress: 7/60 complete 🙂


4 thoughts on “Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Mr. Darwin, Mr. Darwin

    • Hi Linda – Yes, I think Peter H Reynolds does such great work. I would love if he wrote something similar to this book with a “sciencish” theme – my students really responded.

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