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The Tree of Life: Charles Darwin (New York…

The Tree of Life: Charles Darwin (New York Times Best Illustrated Books… (edition 2003)

by Peter Sís

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3332249,992 (3.96)41
Title:The Tree of Life: Charles Darwin (New York Times Best Illustrated Books (Awards))
Authors:Peter Sís
Info:Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (2003), Edition: 1st, Hardcover, 44 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Tree of Life: Charles Darwin by Peter Sis



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This book, subtitled “A Book Depicting the Life of Charles Darwin” presents the life of iconoclast and scientist Charles Darwin and his contributions to our understanding of the process of natural selection and of the evolution of living things.

Darwin is of course best known for his theory of the science of evolution. Darwin published his ideas with compelling evidence in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species, overcoming scientific rejection of earlier concepts of transmutation of species.

Sís begins with Darwin’s childhood, moving on to his time as a medical student, and the voyage around the world on the H.M.S. Beagle that provided Darwin with the materials to form the basis of his discoveries.

As usual, the drawings by Sís are outstanding, and include excerpts from Darwin’s journals about the voyage and what he found on it, such as descriptions of many unique species, and a collection of fossil bones. As Darwin wrote:

“The voyage of the Beagle has been by far the most important event in my life and has determined my whole career . . . I owe to the voyage the first real training or education of my mind. I was led to attend closely to several branches of natural history, and thus my powers of observations were improved, though they were already fairly developed.”

Much of the text is divided into three sections: “Public Life,” “Private Life,” and “Secret Life.” Why secret life? Because his theory of evolution constituted a revolution in thinking, one that was extremely polarizing and controversial. He was afraid to publish, and only did so when he feared that a rival, Alfred Russel Wallace, might beat him to it.

Darwin’s theories were fiercely attacked by the religious establishment, and in particular the Bishop of Oxford, who was appalled at the proposition that man could be descended from an ape.

But Darwin persisted, and eventually of course, his ideas were vindicated.

Peter Sís, children’s book author/illustrator, is known for his picture books that aren’t really just for children. In this tribute to Darwin, once again as in other books he celebrates the power of ideas - particularly when they are resisted by the authorities - and the courage of those who promulgated those ideas.

The illustrations by Sís are standouts; made from fine pen and ink and watercolors, they are detailed evocations of historical documents from Darwin’s time and and truly wonder-inspiring. He also incorporates excerpts of handwritten passages from Darwin’s notebooks, diaries, correspondence, and published writings. In addition, there are charts, maps, and a gatefold spread highlighting the ideas presented in The Origin of Species.

Evaluation: This book with its mesmerizing pictures teaches some important lessons about truth, courage, and persistence even when it may result in social censure and widespread calumny. ( )
  nbmars | Dec 9, 2017 |
Redefines what a picture book can be. Lively quotes mingle with maps & diary entries
  jhawn | Jul 31, 2017 |
Why do I persist?  I brought this home, but am returning it unread.  Immediately upon opening it I felt seasick, headachy - I cannot enjoy creations by Peter Sis.  Too busy, too intricate, not enough color or contrast, font too small.  Maybe it's a fantastic book for the right audience, but not for me.
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 5, 2016 |
The sheer scope and detail within this book is amazing to behold. The stories within the story that are compiled of multiple small pages with intricate drawings and excerpts from Darwin's writing could be books unto themselves. Each picture and series of pictures could be studied in detail extensively over periods of time. The multi genre approach, classic of Sis's, lends great depth to the story of Darwin: letters, diary entries, notes on drawings, descriptions of theories are presented in different formats and structures that keep the reader engaged in the text.

Curricular connections: The story of Darwin's life and learnings could lead in to a study of the history of natural science or of the theories of evolution and natural selection. The book also would serve as a fine mentor text to teaching multi genre writing techniques: Even with just two pages from the book, teachers and students could model a variety of writing strategies to tell a story or report a phenomenon. ( )
  SueStolp | Feb 11, 2016 |
I really like the way Peter Sís does biographies. Lovely illustrations (although I liked the ones in Starry Messenger even better). They include quotes from the subject of the biography, and I think they're done very well so that it feels like you're hearing him speak. I'm hoping Sís has more that I can go look up. ( )
  mirikayla | Feb 8, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0374456283, Hardcover)

Here is a fascinating, detailed look at the life of Charles Darwin: naturalist, geologist, and independent thinker. In his author's note, Caldecott Honor illustrator Peter Sis (Starry Messenger, Tibet: Through the Red Box) writes that Darwin always regretted not learning how to draw. However, he could and did take "dense and vivid" written notes, from which Sis drew his inspiration. Readers will spend hours poring over the gorgeous, intricately crafted pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations depicting layer upon layer of Darwin’s life as he developed his theories about the origins of life and natural selection. Tidbits from Darwin’s extensive and legendary voyage on the Beagle, notes on Galapagos tortoises, bloodsucking benchuca bugs, and Toxodon skeletons, and particulars from his family life intermingle with each other--just as in real life. Crammed with a veritable muddle of diary entries, cameo portraits, diagrams, natural illustrations, maps, timelines, a gatefold spread, and narrative divided into "Public Life," "Private Life," and "Secret Life" blocks of text, The Tree of Life will certainly be overwhelming to some readers; for other, less linear thinkers, it will be sheer, chaotic delight. (Ages 9 and older) --Emilie Coulter

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:48 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Presents the life of the famous nineteenth-century naturalist using text from Darwin's writings and detailed drawings by Sis.

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