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Review: Island October 18, 2012

Posted by ccbooks in Book Reviews.
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If you want to get a group of kids excited about a natural history topic, start with a book by Jason Chin.  His picture books Redwoods and Coral Reefs feature children who discover magical books that pull them into the world of the topic, enlightening them with facts alongside the beautiful visuals. His latest, Island, doesn’t have a similar child character, but it doesn’t need one. For all of us who are unlikely to win an all expenses paid trip to the Galapagos Islands any time soon, this book provides the perfect vicarious experience.

Chin divides his story into chapters labeled with the stages of life–for this unnamed island, ‘birth’ was six million years ago. Repeated volcanic eruptions bring it to childhood, adulthood and finally old age, as it sinks back into the ocean. Very slowly, over time, creatures discover the island and turn it into their home. Sets of three square pictures detail the seabirds, iguanas and sea lions who gradually migrate via water and air to live on the islands.  The adaptations that species such as the finches and tortoises evolve over time are explained simply and clearly, accompanied by detailed illustrations showing the differences in beak shape, snail and tortoise shells.

Galapagos is the go-to example for teachers when talking about the science of evolution and sometimes it feels like the islands didn’t exist until Charles Darwin sailed up in the ship Beagle, to wonder and question and eventually put together his theories. One of the things I love about this book is that it takes place entirely before Darwin’s time–by the time the ship sails in for the last couple of pages, the island’s life is over and it has sunk below the waves again. The idea of a past that is millions of years old is often difficult for young readers to understand.  This lovely, informative book will give those readers a concrete story of how our world has changed over time and is still changing today.

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