Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Galápagos George by Jean Craighead George, paintings by Wendell Minor

When Jean Craighead George passed away in 2012, she left young readers a phenomenal body of literature.  George was a lover of nature and it always factored into her writing.  One of the last books she wrote is a kind of genealogical history of the last of the giant saddleback tortoises, Lonesome George, who died in 2012.

Lonesome George's ancient ancestor was Giantess George, a desert dweller in South America until she was washed away in storms and floods to an island called San Cristóbal.  She found a new home there and began to adapt to her surroundings.

Over the centuries, descendants of Giantess George found other islands to live on and began to adapt to  their new homes.  But, after millions of years of adapting, reproducing and surviving, mankind discovered their homes on the Galápagos Islands, including Charles Darwin.

Once man arrived, it didn't take long before the natural habitat of these giant tortoises began to disappear and slowly so did the different tortoises on the different islands, until only one, Lonesome George, was left.  He was moved to the safety of a research station on Pinta Island, and the search for a mate began.  But not mate could be found and when Lonesome George died, it was the end of Giantess George's family line.

Galápagos George is an interesting if simplistic book that uses the giant tortoises of the Galápagos Islands to demonstrate the concept of evolution (poorly defined in the Glossary), adaptation and survival and extinction.  The language is not very scientific and will sound more like a story and less like a nonfiction picture book.  Which is good, since it will probably appeal to young readers, who will no doubt, be captivated by it.

The watercolor paintings by Wendell Minor are absolutely exquisite.  Close up, detailed portraits of the tortoises really showcases these beautiful creatures, and other more panoramic illustrations give a sense of time and place.
There is some nice back matter that includes a glossary, a timeline, resources and websites to visit.  And be sure to check out the front endpapers for a map of the Galápagos Islands.

Galápagos George is a wonderful addition to any child's library, and who knows, it just may spark a life-long interest in nature similar to that of Jean Craighead George.  A final note tells us the Lonesome George and Jean Craighead George passed away within weeks of each other.  Sadly, the world certainly lost two very unique individuals who had interesting stories to tell us.  But as Jean George reminds us at the end of Galápagos George: "there will always be 'new and unimaginable things that can happen.' And they do.  All the time."

This book is recommended for readers age 6+
This book was borrowed from a friend

This is book 4 of my 2014 Nonfiction Picture Book Reading Challenge hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy


  1. Hello Alex:
    I was curious about the definition myself so I did a little online research. I found the definition given in the glossary to be that of common descent. It is a form of evolution which is in perfect sync with the presentation of Galapagos George. Of course I am no scientist but this is my take on what I did read.
    And I do agree that this book is a wonderful addition to a child's library.

    1. I think the book is wonderful and the evolution definition certainly isn't a deal breaker in terms of its value. But I thought evolution was poorly defined because it didn't include that adaption changes that happen over time to allow a species to survive. To say that it is passing on traits from one generation to another doesn't include those adaption changes.

  2. I've seen this review before. Thanks for sharing a great summary of it. Looks like one for the library!

    1. I hope you enjoy reading it. It does make one think twice about what we are doing in the world and about extinction.

  3. I am a huge fan of Wendell Minor's artwork, I shall definitely try to find this one, Alex. Thank you for sharing it.


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