- Title: Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species
adapted by Sabina Radeva (Author, Illustrator)
- Publication: Puffin, (7 Feb 2019), Hardcover, 64 pp. £12.99
- ISBN-13: 978-0141388502
- Read: 25 December 2019 – 2 February 2020
- Rating: Excellent ★★★★✩ | Goodreads: ★★★★✩ (4.41)
‘A long, long time ago, before humans even existed, the living world looked very different from how it looks today.’
This is without doubt beautifully illustrated. Ms Sabina Radeva has created the first ever picture-book retelling of Charles Darwin’s On The Origin of Species (1859). She has worked meticulously throughout these 64 pages of this hardcover picture-book. Each page is lavishly illustrated in colour and her examples explaining Darwin’s magnum opus into a child-friendly and approachable narrative, that’s not only for a younger audience, unfamiliar with Darwin, but also for grown-ups too, provides a wonderful journey, with which one can take to finally understand this in simple terms.
With that said, Ms Radeva’s creation was one of the most anticipated books in my library, that I had the pleasure of reading with my niece, ever since she received this for her Christmas present. Actually, she chose this by herself, as one of her many Christmas book presents, whilst browsing in Waterstones, in London’s Piccadilly—her favourite bookstore—running over excitedly and asking me to close my eyes, before revealing what treasure she had found. Ms Radeva found the right formula: the cover is striking and popular with children.
‘Since life on Earth began, tiny organisms, plants and animals have been changing slowly, over millions of years.’
Although a short book, it is best read page-by-page or concept-by-concept and not in an entire setting. I found discussing each idea or theory and further expanding it in your own words the best way forward (if you’re scientifically inclined or grasp Darwin’s theories). We particularly liked the family portraits of Mr and Mrs Darwin, their eight children, and their dog, quite charming.
What’s interesting about this title is that it was originally funded as a Kickstarter campaign back in September 2017 and published as an eBook and in Hardcover. Later, the book was picked up by Puffin, and imprint of Penguin Random House, and published on 7 February 2019 in hardcover.
Although, quite enjoyable at the start, once you’ve gone through it, you are left feeling a disproportion present throughout the adaption. Ms Radeva has spent more time working on adapting and illustrating in the start of the book explaining Darwin’s magnum opus and some of its central ideas, but regrettably less so once you reach the end. Now, I say this with adult eyes and from experience reading Darwin, and Darwin is heavy and complex, even for a younger audience, though others might feel Ms Radeva has done is enough and is the right amount of material for a child to grasp these ideas, to just entice them for further study, and that maybe rightly so. If you can explain Darwin, in simple terms, to a child, you can do anything, right?
A book such as On The Origin of Species (1859) is not an easy undertaking, and Ms Radeva does admit this in the end of the book and to help the younger audience, includes a set of important concepts and take-way points in an appendix and a glossary, explaining Natural Selection, Evolution, etc., as well as a brief list of misconceptions. Nevertheless, I felt a small inkling, a slight irritation that the book being relatively a short read, would’ve benefitted from another 5 to 10 more pages to deal with more of Darwin’s central ideas. Alas, given the complex ideas, Ms Radeva has done a wonderful job.◼︎