Friday, August 14, 2020

Darwin's Rival: Alfred Russel Wallace and the Search for Evolution

When you think about the theory of evolution, chances are you think about Charles Darwin. He's the one who came up with the idea, right? The truth is a bit messier...

Darwin's Rival: Alfred Russel Wallace and the Search for Evolution
by Christiane Dorion; illustrated by Harry Tennant
64 pages; ages 10 - 14
Candlewick Studio, 2020

“In June 1858, the prominent scientist Charles Darwin received a letter from a young British explorer and naturalist… it proposed a new idea to explain how living things evolved over time.”

That young explorer’s name was Alfred Russel Wallace. Born at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in what is now Wales, he worked as a surveyor. As he tramped around the hills he developed a keen interest in nature and science – and began collecting beetles. At that time some naturalists were proposing a daring idea: that living things gradually change over time.

Wallace wanted to learn more, so in 1848 he boarded a cargo ship bound for Brazil and spent the next four years exploring and mapping a river, collecting fish and birds and insects.

This is the tale of exploration, field research, shipwrecks, and a friendship between two naturalists that evolved over time. Both Wallace and Darwin wrote about natural selection and the evolution of new species. It was Wallace’s letter that prompted Darwin to write his book, On the Origin of Species. Rather than competing against each other for credit, both tried hard to treat each other fairly – to the benefit of all.

What I like about this book: At its heart, it’s an adventure story. There are maps showing Wallace’s routes, spreads showing diversity of beetles and butterflies and birds, and some great historical perspectives.

Thanks for dropping by today. On Monday we'll be hanging out at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle, so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copy provided by the publisher.


  1. What a fascinating book! I'd never heard of Wallace and I look forward to getting a copy of this book to find out more. Thanks for posting on MMGM.

  2. I've never heard of Wallace, but it's neat to hear that this isn't a simple one-took-credit-for-the-other's-work story. The illustrations look wonderful! Thanks for the great review!

  3. Sounds like an interesting adventure story that will especially appeal to kids who like science. Thanks for sharing it.

  4. I just ordered this from my library and am really looking forward to reading it. Thanks for telling me about it.

  5. Never heard of Wallace. So interesting that Darwin and Wallace were friends and colleagues and supported each other's work. Kids who love insects will enjoy this adventure story and learn something too. Thanks for sharing!