On sale date: 2/5/13
Paperback format available
PRAISE FOR DARWIN: A GRAPHIC BIOGRAPHY:
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.)
“a fine addition to outstanding graphic nonfiction, joining other famous graphic biographies of cultural icons like Richard Feynman, Hunter S. Thompson, The Carter Family, and Steve Jobs.” Brain Pickings
Darwin: A Graphic Biography is aimed at 10- to 15-year-olds. However, it’s also sophisticated and detailed enough to give older readers a fantastic springboard into the life and scientific times of the world’s greatest biologist. Grovel
Eugene Byrne and Simon Gurr have crafted another history title of note with Darwin: A Graphic Biography, which will be published in February. I've read many books on Darwin, and still think there are not enough in the world, yet find it easy to recommend this new one to teens. In detailed, shadowed black-and-white drawings, the authors provide a "really exciting and dramatic story of a man who mostly stayed home and wrote some books." The standard facts are included: Darwin's childhood and early attraction to natural science, his voyage on the Beagle, and his long contemplation of evolution that led to writing and publication of The Origin of the Species. But the facts are not what make this telling of his life so good.
Byrne and Gurr frame Darwin within the fanciful setting of a wildlife program filmed for "Ape TV," and the narrative is peppered with plenty of pithy footnotes, as well as some intense discussion of evolution. The apes interject infrequently, just enough to bring in the humor, but keeping the story from devolving into silliness, and the poignancy of Darwin's life and the challenges he faced on his path to the truth (in a shared role, thankfully noted here by Alfred Russell Wallace) are not overlooked. More importantly, the authors manage to introduce some timely intellectual discussions without intimidating readers who might be fairly new to Darwin's biography and make clear that the conclusions he reached were not casual or naïve. It's a careful tightrope Byrne and Gurr walk of making their subject accessible, while not reducing his ideas to talking points. I think they have done a great job with Darwin, while injecting some unexpected humor into a very serious subject. Taken alongside Economix, this slim volume proves further the harmonious relationship that can be found between nonfiction and the graphic novel format. Bookslut