Much toner has been fused in the annals of science education literature about teaching evolution and natural selection: what are the common misconceptions, what's the best way to approach the subject, etc. etc. I was hoping this would be a book I could recommend with our curriculum materials (about biodiversity, not evolution per se).
I'm not a stickler for dry facts, presented with precision and accuracy - after all, I enjoy the original set of Magic School Bus books! And I don't even require believable action (see previous point). But for some reason, the suspension of disbelief required by this was too much. Okay, so there's a rose chafer beetle that goes along on his journey and helps him see the clues in his evidence. That's fine. It's a literary device. But does she have to live out the rest of Darwin's days, after they return from the voyage? That's too much. Also, it seemed like they were throwing in extra details for no good reason. For example, often times they use a scientific name of some obscure creature, and it left me wondering: did the creature even have that name at the time? Why even use the scientific name given that the books is trying to simplify a really complex idea?
Good points: illustrations are fairly good, especially the ones that are supposed to be pages from his journal. I liked the series of observations and associated clues.
So overall, even though I think it is based on a very worthwhile premise (make Darwin's mystery of mysteries accessible to a young audience), I'm not sure if I'll be recommending it.
Despite the title, this book is much more about Polar's 'life' *before* the Titanic. Perhaps it should be titled "Polar the bear of a fabulously wealthy boy in a bygone era, who happened to survive the sinking of the Titanic." It contains too much mundane and disconnected detail early on to maintain the attention of a young listener (even a 7yo with a keen interest in the Titanic). For example, do we need to know how long they stayed in each exotic locale and that they celebrated Washington's birthday? And why tell us that master is obsessed with the height and length of things (Eiffel Tower, p 31) if you're not going to follow up with stats of the Titanic? Perhaps it would have been the right length if it had started when they boarded the ill-fated ship (page 32 of 52).
The art combines historic photographs and ephemera with watercolors that are a bit too fussy for my tastes. I also don't like how it's written from the perspective of the bear. I was interested in the intro and the epilogue, with glimpses into the family who owned the bear, but not the main body of the book.
The main storyline about the monarch is interesting and information packed, but there are too many tangents that cause the overall effect to be disjointed and a bit confusing.
(note on the description: the butterfly in the book travels from Mexico to Canada, not Arkansas to Michigan.)
Good science, good writing, good case study. Great photographs. Shows that ecological restoration is *complex.* Underlines that a restored ecosystem is not as good as the original, but has an overall positive message.
I was hoping this could serve as a woodland ecosystem companion recommendation to The Prairie Builders (for project at work), but alas, it is not. This isn't really about studying the woods at all. Instead, it's about a scientist who tracks and studies wildlife (mostly large cats in North America). One thing I liked is how it showed her reasoning through animal signs to determine what left them. In my experience, many people don't notice such signs until you draw their attention to them, but once they do, it expands their outlook on the world around them. I suspect she does important conservation work, but this book doesn't highlight the science the way others have.
But my 2 rating is not just due to the misleading title. Instead, it's because I found this book to be really disjointed and lacking coherence. It's also the most preachy that I've encountered in the series. If this were someone's introduction to the Scientists in the Field series, they'd probably give up! Most of the others that I've read have been quite engaging and well-written.