Review: Galapagos George by Jean Craighead George

galapagos george

Galapagos George by Jean Craighead George, illustrated by Wendell Minor

A story of evolution and extinction, this picture book explores the incredible life of the famous Lonesome George a tortoise who was the last of his kind.  The book begins by explaining how a million years ago a tortoise was driven from South America and carried to the island of San Cristobal near the equator.  There she laid eggs, used her long neck to reach food, and passed on her genetics.  Thousands of years later, all of the turtles looked different with long necks and shells that curved back to give their necks more room.  When humans discovered the Galapagos Islands, they quickly decimated the turtle population which dwindled down to only a few thousand from the hundreds of thousands that had lived there.  A hundred years later, the giant tortoise population had reduced even further, so that one lone turtle remained.  He was moved to the Charles Darwin Research Station and protected but no other turtle of the species was ever found.

George creates a vivid story of the power of evolution in our world and the effects of humans on animal species.  She steadily shows how weather forces and natural disasters impact animals as well, moving them from place to place and changing their habitats.  As the animals change slowly, George keeps the text clear and factual, making for a book that moves quickly and is filled with fascinating scientific information.

Minor’s illustrations are lush and lovely.  They are filled with the light of sun, bursting on the horizon in tropical colors.  He also shows the barren landscape of the Galapagos clearly and the frank regard of a tortoise looking right at the reader.  There is a sense of loneliness for much of the book both when the book is about the first tortoise and then later when there is one left.  That connection between the two lone turtles is made clearly in the illustrations.

Fascinating, distressing and yet ultimately hopeful, this nonfiction picture book will work well in science classrooms as well as library collections.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.

Review: The Mermaid and the Shoe by K.G. Campbell

mermaid and the shoe

The Mermaid and the Shoe by K.G. Campbell

King Neptune’s 50 daughters are all special and talented in their own ways.  All except for Minnow who tries to be like her sisters, but only manages to ask lots and lots of questions about things.  Minnow did not fit in with her sisters at all, often drifting alone on her own.  Then one day, she found a remarkable object in the water, a red shoe.  She tried asking her sisters what it was for, but none of them knew, so Minnow headed out to answer her own questions and find out what the red object was for.  Minnow swam closer and closer to shore, discovering answers to some of her other questions like why crabs don’t have fins.  Then she found out exactly what shoes were for and headed home to tell the others.  In the end, Minnow not only discovers the answers she is looking for, but she discovers exactly what her special talent is too.

Campbell, author of the uproarious Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters, returns with a quieter book that shows the same sort of depth as the first.  This book beautifully wrestles with deep questions about one’s purpose in life and how to remain true to oneself rather than give in to external pressure.  Disney’s The Little Mermaid comes to mind throughout the story, but in the end this is a unique mermaid story that holds up well against the Disney version.

The illustrations are rather haunting.  They pair the darkness of the deep water with a near glowing brightness of the mermaids.  The mermaids have drifting white-blonde hair that moves with the currents, fish tails that look like real fish, and small seashells to cover their chests. 

Beautiful, quiet and deep like the ocean, this book will find readers in Little Mermaid fans who may just have found a new favorite mermaid to adore.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Kids Can Press.