Monday, February 9, 2009

Carolyn Meyer's "The True Adventures of Charley Darwin"

Carolyn Meyer is the award-winning author of more than forty books for young people.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The True Adventures of Charley Darwin, and reported the following:
By page 99, Charley Darwin has survived the miseries of Shrewsbury School, the boarding school to which he was banished at age nine. Now sixteen, he’s shown absolutely no aptitude for classical studies but a deep curiosity about the natural world. His father dispatches him to the University of Edinburgh, hoping the boy will follow in his father’s footsteps and study medicine. Charley is bored with most academic subjects, but he finds a mentor who teaches him to collect tiny sea creatures, and then to dissect and examine them under a microscope.

Bobbing in a fishing boat on the choppy waters of the Firth in search of specimens one chilly afternoon, [Dr.] Grant tamped tobacco into a pipe and began to describe his ideas about the gradual change and development of invertebrates. “Many people think the idea of evolution is shocking,” Grant said. “They prefer to believe that all species were created by God and don’t change. I disagree. I’m convinced they do change.”

I looked up in surprise, nodded, and quickly looked away again, not quite knowing what to make of this confession. No one I knew discussed such things.

Grant concentrated on lighting his pipe…. “Best, though, if you keep this conversation between us,” he added with a tight smile. “It would not go well for me in my professional career if my unorthodox beliefs became known.”

But within a few months the relationship sours—Grant passes off some of Charley’s research as his own—and Charley, barely eighteen years old, knows he’s not cut out to be a physician. Just two pages after the scene in the boat, he gathers the courage to tell his father that he will not remain at Edinburgh.

It was even worse than I expected.

Father exploded. “You care for nothing but shooting, dogs, and rat-catching,” he roared, “and you will be a disgrace to yourself and all your family!”

If ever a parent’s prediction missed the mark, it was that one. Fifty pages later, Charley Darwin boards HMS Beagle and embarks on his history-making voyage around the world.
Learn more about the book and author at Carolyn Meyer's website.

--Marshal Zeringue