One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin

Common Sense Media says

Extraordinary book celebrates curiosity, and an amazing man.





What parents need to know

Positive messages

Shows Darwin as someone with an adventurous, inquisitive spirit and keen observer of the world around him. His father doesn't support his choice of intellectual pursuits at first, but grows to understand his unique son.

Violence & scariness
Not applicable
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this book offers an insightful, beautifully balanced introduction to Charles Darwin: what drove him to discover the things he did, and how the world received his new ideas about the order of life on Earth.

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What's the story?

This look at Darwin's life takes young readers from his boyhood, observing, collecting, and naming things he found in the wild, to his adventures as a young naturalist traveling to South America, and later to his publication of The Origin of Species and his life as a family man and naturalist who never stopped exploring, experimenting, and observing. Divided in mini-chapters, each page or two explores some aspect of
Darwin's "extraordinary adventure."

Is it any good?


This is truly an extraordinary book about an extraordinary man. Darwin's story is intriguing and amazing in itself. Here it's presented in writing that kids will find inviting in its straightforward simplicity yet lively expressive tone. The accompanying artwork, which is both beautifully layered and complex, makes it all the more captivating. Kathryn Latsky's writing presents this amazing story in a way that is both approachable and complete. Together, they celebrate not only
Darwin's exploration of ideas about the world he saw, but
also, as the author hopes in her dedication, "children, whose boundless
curiosity gives them a right to know their history on Earth."

The artwork is equally extraordinary. Done in several layers, each illustration truly captures the intrigue and mystery of the natural world. Trueman began each one with a sensitive ink and watercolor drawing, added to it first with gouache and colored pencil, then a layer of acrylic painting. Finally, after a bit more graphite and colored pencil, he added subtle touches of paper, string, weeds, wildflowers, and other collage elements he gathered in the world around him. Amazing! The result is a book that is the perfect celebration of Darwin's bicentennial anniversary, and one that all readers, especially the naturalists, certainly will treasure.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about what kind of boy, and man, Charles Darwin was. How did he learn about all the different types of beetles, birds, and bones? What does it mean to be a "naturalist"? How is observing things different from reading about things in books? Besides getting outside and putting their own "noses in the grass," kids and parents will enjoy studying each illustration and seeing what tiny mysteries they can uncover there. Families also might enjoy tracing Darwin's journey on a map and studying the different places he stopped when sailing on the Beagle. What do you think it would be like to travel all over the world for five years, just observing things and collecting specimens? What did Darwin think caused all the changes in things he found around the world? What did the world think of Darwin and his ideas? Why? What do you think?

Book details

Author:Kathryn Lasky
Illustrator:Matthew Trueman
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Candlewick Press
Publication date:January 13, 2009
Number of pages:48
Publisher's recommended age(s):7 - 11
Read aloud:7
Read alone:9

This review of One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent of a 7 and 9 year old Written bypeony March 20, 2009

Appealing depiction of the man, and the formation of a revolutionary idea

The attractive, contemporary illustrations have kid appeal. I give it four stars, rather than five, because in places it's rather jumpy: clarity of expression and narrative got sacrificed for style and format choices. (For instance, in the mini-chapter "The Voyage of a Lifetime Begins", it isn't until the second sentence of the second paragraph that the text explains what is actually under discussion!) But I found it works quite well as a "read aloud", when I could add a transition or a bit of context beyond the text. As for instance, when the text discusses Darwin's abhorrence of slavery, it's a good point to add a mention that the idea of common descent (common ancestry for all humans) was congruent with the abolitionist beliefs in his family.


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