The Humblebee Hunter, Inspired by the Life and Experiments of Charles Darwin and his Children, by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Jen Corace (Disney 2010, ages 4-8).
I wish I had been one of Darwin's children. Not that I didn't have a happy childhood of my own, but reading this book made me wish that I'd been part of the exploration of nature that permeated the Darwins' home (and it also inspired me to take a magnifying glass outside with my own kids).
"Father was still a collector. And most of all he collected questions. We grew up asking what? and why? and how?
When Father studied worms, Lizzie and I stuck knitting needles in the ground to try to measure their holes.
Willy and I helped Father put seeds in salt water, to see if they might still grow if they were carried across the seas." (page 9)
What a fun childhood.
The Humblebee Hunter tells of one particular summer afternoon in the life of the Darwin family. Henrietta is inside, helping to bake, but she can see her father outside, looking closely at the bees...and she'd much rather be there with him than in the kitchen! So when her father calls to bring the flour shaker out to him, she's off running.
And the great humblebee count begins--each of the Darwin children (except little Horace--he's too young to count, so he's assigned dog playing duty) will count how many flowers their particular bee will visit in one minute.
It's an enchanting little story. The illustrations have an old fashioned look to them--rather formal, and in darkish colors, but enchanting none the less. And the actual counting, with pictures that jump from child to child, is more exciting than it might sound!
A great book for spring--the humblebees are buzzing around our garden these days, and I'm very happy to see them!
Here's an essay Deborah Hopkinson wrote for Book Page last February, describing the making of this book. In it she says that although there's no specific evidence that the Darwin kids were part of a great bumblebee count, although this was a question that interested him. But even though I guess this then becomes historical fiction, I'm counting this for non-fiction Monday anyway--it's a great introduction to Darwin for the young!
The Non-fiction Monday Roundup is at Shelf-Employed today!