cover image Darwin: A Graphic Biography

Darwin: A Graphic Biography

Eugene Byrne, illus. by Simon Gurr. Smithsonian Books (Random, dist.), $9.95 trade paper (100p) ISBN 978-1-58834-352-9

Early in this bio, a college-age Darwin is out collecting beetles when he spies a rare bombardier beetle. With beetles already in both hands, he shoves the new specimen into his mouth, only to have it release a “hot, stinking mixture” of chemicals, causing him to lose all three insects. This is a typical anecdote in the account, which covers Darwin’s entire life, from his upbringing and studies to his fateful voyage aboard the Beagle and publication of On the Origin of Species. Using the framing device of a group of wisecracking monkeys recording a nature special, Byrne and Gurr present Darwin as a misfit who never quite found a place in regular society. Gurr’s b&w art is skillfully executed, but it does little to further the narrative on its own, and the book falls into a pattern of dense text explanations with drawings that fill in examples. While the book may be too text-heavy for a mass appeal, its drawbacks are outweighed by its sense of humor and its novel approach to telling the life story of one of history’s most famous and misunderstood scientists. Ages 10–15. (Feb.) ■