The sign of a good children’s book, I think, is if it can transcend the boundaries of its intended readership. Here, we have one such book. I also like it when tricky subject matter is made approachable to children. Stylish illustrations help too, and On the Origin of Species – retold and illustrated by Sabina Radeva, has all of those things.
An accessible introduction to Charles Darwin’s revolutionary scientific magnum opus, author & illustrator Sabina Radeva has distilled the most relevant parts of Darwin’s theory of evolution and simplified the original text in the way that informs the reader without patronising. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve read excerpts from the original and it hurt my brain. It hurt my brain BEFORE I had children and was still a fresh English graduate…now my brain has been reduced to cold porridge thanks to my 3 young children, having an easy-to-read version of a text so important to our understanding of our world is ace, because it made me feel reasonably intelligent again after reading it. (Also, I could have done with a version like this during GCSE Science…it would have made it much more appealing!) My eldest son read it with me, and although only 5, thoroughly enjoyed learning some big new words (mostly ‘Eukaryotes’!).
Radeva’s beautiful illustrations use a very earthy colour palette that really brings the text to life; in every spread there is a lot to look at and find. The illustrations are interspersed with quotes from Darwin’s original text, for those who want to dip their toe into the florid and often poetic world of Darwin’s writing, but it is the diagrammatic illustrations that really stand out and help to explain just what the heck Darwin was on about. The end papers are a visual delight too – Radeva invites us to use the insect chart to find and identify some of the species inside the book.
In the press release for this book Radeva, who is a trained natural biologist as well as an illustrator and designer said “I wanted to make a picture book that was artistic, beautiful, and inviting, and that at the same time offered accurate scientific information.”