Tuesday, July 20, 2004
The Tree of Life: A Book Depicting the Life of Charles Darwin, Naturalist, Geologist, and Thinker
Sis, Peter. 2003. THE TREE OF LIFE: A BOOK DEPICTING THE LIFE OF CHARLES DARWIN, NATURALIST, GEOLOGIST& THINKER. New York: Farrar, Straus Giroux. ISBN 0374456283 [Suggested Grade Levels 4 and up]
SUMMARY and ANALYSIS
Sis presents the life of the famous nineteenth-century naturalist using information gathered to create illustrations to accompany Darwin's writings. The book begins with a focus on Darwin’s early work as a naturalist (with detailed pages capturing his five year expedition on the H.M.S. Beagle). Much attention is also given to his personal life including his strife with his father, the deaths of many of his children, and his struggle to gain support for his theories.
In this captivating picture book biography, Sis breathes life into Darwin’s work by offering an insightful perspective on his life and times. Using Darwin’s extensive body of notes, letters, journals, and diary entries, Sis masterfully narrates the scientist’s work through illustrations and text. Told chronologically, the main body of the text falls below the framed illustrations. Using this format, the account of Darwin’s life is divided into three parts: public life, private life, and secret life. Font size is manipulated so that his most private experiences appear somewhat faint on the page. This is achieved through the use of a small scaled text, which allows the reader to experience the sensation of sharing Darwin’s secrets. With no detail is overlooked, the true beauty of the book is Sis’s art—he gives great attention to every visual element. Stunning images fill every page which incorporates a palette of muted tones of blue, tan, and green. Portraits, maps, graphs, and vivid end sheets all work together with text to create a striking picture book biography that offers readers an opportunity to discover Darwin and his contributions to the natural sciences as well as an introduction to his theories.
Readers beginning a study of the natural sciences could use Sis’s book as an introduction to Darwin and his theories. After reading, they could create their own timeline of the major events in Darwin’s life, ranking them by importance.
Other resources about the Charles Darwin:
Nardo, Don. CHARLES DARWIN. ISBN 0737700815
Sproule, Anna. CHARLES DARWIN: VISIONARY BEHIND THE THEORY OF EVOLUTION. ISBN 1567116558
Other works by Sis:
FOLLOW THE DREAM. ISBN 0679906282
STARRY MESSENGER: A BOOK DEPICTING THE LIFE OF A FAMOUS SCIENTIST, MATHEMATICIAN, ASTRONOMER, PHILOSPHER, PHYSICIST, GALILEO GALILEI. ISBN 0374371911
TIBET: THROUGH THE RED BOX. ISBN 0374375526
By Rose Brock