The True Adventures of Charley Darwin by Carolyn Mayer

Published: 2009

Genre: middle grade historical fiction

Length: 321 pages

Setting: England and a voyage around the world, 1818-1839

Font: Apollo

Interest: It’s a historical fiction book about the early life of Charles Darwin – it appealed to my scientific side.

Summary: We start with Darwin as a young school boy. He’s sent to boarding school, which he hates. He finds the subjects boring and would rather be out collecting natural specimens. He can’t figure out what kind of career he would be interested in. So, he lets his father convince him to study for the church, which he also finds incredibly boring. Through all this, he visits with cousins and family and does science experiments with his older brother, Erasmus. While in college, one of his professors recommends he join the H.M.S. Beagle as a gentleman-naturalist-companion to the captain. Darwin is taken on board and collects a variety of geologic, plant, and animal specimens as the Beagle travels around the world. When he gets backs to England, Darwin starts writing up his findings and trying to make sense of the patterns he observed. Among all the science, he also managed to find a wife.

Final thoughts: This was not the book I was expecting. I wanted to read about Darwin’s adventures on the Beagle. We did get some of that in the second half of the book. The first half is all about how boring school was and visiting with relatives. The plot moved like an adult book (i.e. nothing much exciting happens), but the language was definitely on the simpler side. I’m not sure who the audience is for the book, honestly. If I weren’t so interested in Darwin and known the Beagle journey was coming, I’m not sure I would have gotten past the first half. It does a great job of describing Darwin’s life as a school boy and in college, but his life was pretty humdrum at that point. It’s only on his journey around the world that anything special happens to him, and that part of his story is treated as if it were just as boring as the school life.

Title comes from: The topic. The use of Charley instead of Charles alerts the reader this is about his younger life, not his career as a scientist.

Reading challenges fulfilled: A T in my Title Reading the Alphabet Challenge, and #29 in my Maybe 100 This Year Challenge

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!

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