In Redwoods, author and illustrator Jason Chin transported a boy from a big city subway to a redwood forest in California, and imaginations ran wild as a library transformed into an undersea world in Coral Reefs. Now, in his third book, Chin takes the reader on a six million year journey to witness the birth and life of a chain of volcanic islands off the coast of eastern South America.
Island: A Story of the Galápagos (New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2012) is a visual treat for young science and nature enthusiasts (and adults, too!). As an introduction to the geologic history and natural history of the Galápagos, focusing on how the islands were populated by the usual suspects – tortoises, land and marine iguanas, frigates and finches, and boobies and cormorants – Island is factual and compelling. We learn about how landscape and life go together, most importantly for volcanic islands and how they can form and disappear, and then require their inhabitants to seek new islands to call home. The framing of the narrative is storyboard-like, which gives it an active, fast-paced feel. I particularly enjoyed how, to perhaps counter the general conception that people may have when they consider the Galápagos as a place that humans visit and observe wildlife, that the majority of the story takes place before humans. As much as I appreciate children’s books about Darwin, he is a minor character here, and only shows up in an Epilogue, a reminder that life and land on our planet has existed and thrived long before a species evolved that could think about their geological origin and the plants and animals that live on them. Following the narrative, Chin ends with a few pages of more detailed information about Darwin (including a fabulous illustration of a young Darwin), the geology of the islands, and endemic species (those inhabiting only the Galápagos).
Chin’s vivid watercolors instill in me a desire to visit the Galapagos more than any photograph or video footage has:
As with his previous books, Chin has beautifully melded science and story in Island. My son and I enjoyed reading this together immensely. In 2014, Chin will leave Earth and continue his adventures in Gravity.