Book Review for “The True Adventures of Charley Darwin”


Meyer, C. (2009). The true adventures of Charley Darwin. New York: Graphia.

      The True Adventures of Charley Darwin by Carolyn Meyer provides a charming window into the early life of well-known naturalist Charles Darwin. While the name of Charles Darwin is commonly known in biology classrooms throughout the nation, few young adults know of his early life before his grand adventures. Throughout her novel, Carolyn Meyer seeks not only to inform her reader but to make them acquainted with a younger, more relatable Charles Darwin. This young adult novel serves not only as a source of enjoyment and information, but as an inspiration to follow one’s own passions in life wherever they lead.

     Though The True Adventures of Charley Darwin is a fictional account, author Meyers stays as true to historical accounts as possible preserving Darwin’s family, education, and world-famous travels. The narrative aspect of this historical fiction piece gives the reader an intimate glimpse into the personal life of Charles Darwin as told by Carolyn Meyer. After reading this novel, the famous naturalist becomes a relatable character and role model for young adults. Like many potential readers, Darwin enjoyed and struggled through experiences almost universal to young adolescents. He disliked school where he was bullied by other students and bored by his studies; he was socially awkward and preferred to be engrossed in his favorite pastimes; he did poorly with school and fought with his father about what profession he would choose when he was older. Despite all of his struggles searching for his calling, he had the chance of a lifetime to travel aboard the HMS Beagle and experience first-hand the life of a naturalist. It took Darwin many years to figure out what he wanted to do when he grew up, but he eventually pursued his dreams with passion and fervor. Though his father feared he would grow up to be a lazy or idle man, he became a world-famous scientist, an author of his famous journals, a husband, and a father. It was difficult carving out his own path in life, but Darwin not only found personal fulfillment but fame and admiration for generations to come. Although Darwin’s theories are still highly relevant and researched in the world of science today, it is important for young adults to become familiar with his struggles through adolescence. This novel may not only familiarize students with Charles Darwin and inspire a curiosity in his studies, but it also teachers its reader to pursue their heart’s true passion no matter what other people say; when  you do what you love, you will always achieve personal satisfaction.

     Besides being a good read, there are beneficial ways to use this fictionalized account in the classroom. The True Adventures of Charley Darwin focuses on Darwin’s young life leading up to his famous discoveries. An insightful way to use this text would be to have students read Meyer’s novel in conjunction with excerpts of Darwin’s real life writings such as On the Origin of Species or the manuscripts from his travel journals. This way, students can compare and contrast the works, speculate how Darwin’s early life influenced his theories later on in life, and find alterations or discrepancies in the fictionalized work. This novel also serves to show young adolescents what they can achieve when they follow their natural curiosities and pursue the academic subjects they enjoy.

     Meyer’s fictionalized account provides the reader with an interesting and compelling story of the young Charles Darwin. The circumstances and struggles he experienced as a young child and young adult can still be understood and felt by young adolescents today. Meyer’s novel is a great read, a great supplementary text in the studies of Charles Darwin, and an inspiring story for young adults. Though the accounts and narrations of Carolyn Meyer’s The True Adventures of Charley Darwin are fictionalized, they paint a quaint and relatable picture of the famous naturalist’s early life.

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Filed under Young Adult Novels

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