Eugene Byrne (author), Simon Gurr (illustrator); DARWIN; Smithsonian Books (Comics & Graphic Novels: Comics & Graphic Novels) 9.95 ISBN: 9781588343529
Byline: Peter Dabbene
At this point in history, the name Darwin is so loaded with meaning that it's tough to imagine anyone opening a biography without preconceptions. In Darwin: A Graphic Biography, Eugene Byrne and Simon Gurr have created an enjoyable account of Darwin's life and accomplishments that will resonate with young readers and clarify the often muddy waters surrounding the man and his contributions to science.
The book is framed by a conceit called "Ape TV," which consists of a production crew of talking apes who deliver information throughout. Luckily, "Ape TV" is used sparingly, because although it's an excellent vehicle for providing info and background, it can be excessively jokey, and it's debatable as to whether the book would suffer in its appeal to the target audience of ten to fifteen year olds without it.
The bulk of the book is masterfully done. Gurr's illustrations are detailed enough to convey slight differences in finch beaks and bone development, view cross-sections of Darwin's ship and maps of the ocean paths it traveled, and keep a large cast of characters distinct and easily recognizable, all while preserving a light and smooth flow -- no easy task, given the complexity of some of the ideas discussed.
Byrne gives us Darwin's life story, a true biography with equal time granted to...