The first third of this middle-grade book about the life and adventures of Charles Darwin is fascinating. Author Carolyn Meyer begins with Darwin being sent to boarding school, chronicling his education and interests. He despised formal education and (even though quite smart) felt it did little for him. But he had many interests, including collecting, shooting, walking — but nothing that (he or his father thought) would lead toward a suitable career for a well-off but not noble English man.
Then, when he was 22, he ended up being recommended for a surveying voyage around the world with a Captain FitzRoy. It was on this trip that he not only began to formulate the theory of evolution, but also where he figured out what he wanted to do with his life. However, it’s also where the book fell apart. Charley’s childhood was fun and fascinating; he was an enjoyable kid, and Meyer has captured his voice in such a way as to bring him to life. But, once on the voyage, he’s so bogged down in seasickness and collecting that it became much less interesting. And so by the time the four-year voyage was over, I had completely lost interest in the book.
Yes, it is really the adventures of Charles Darwin. It’s just too bad that they’re not terribly exciting.