If you teach a child between the ages of 9 and 12, you need to own a copy of Jason Chin’s new picture book biography, Island: A Story of the Galapagos. Like me, you may think of biographies as the stories of people, but Chin’s beautiful book is a biography of a place. It begins with a “birth” that took place six million years ago.
Island is about a volcano, evolution and geology and plants and animals. Through beautiful large and small watercolors, Chin shows the reader how the islands have changed and how species adapt to an environment that grew out of lava.
One of Chin’s gifts is to explain things really clearly. For example, here’s his explanation for how the famous tortoises came to inhabit the Galapagos: “Over the next million years, more species arrive. Sea lions from the north establish colonies on the island’s beaches. In a distant land, a flood washes a group of tortoises out to sea. After floating for weeks, ocean currents carry them to shore.” A few panels later, the story continues: “the tortoises’ shells change shape. As the land becomes drier, their shells become smaller and turn up in front. This ‘saddleback’ shape is better for keeping cool and navigating the desert.” The corresponding pictures show the changes in the shell and it all makes so much sense.
Charles Darwin’s contributions to our understanding of evolution are explained in the back matter, along with other information about the Galapagos Island. This is an essential purchase for school libraries and budding scientists.