Charles and Emma: The Darwin’s Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman


Though much is known about Charles Darwin’s theories of natural selection and evolution, less is known about his courtship and marriage to Emma Wedgwood, his first cousin. A man ruled by logic and order, Charles took a measured approach to his marriage, and was worried that his wife would not support his scientific ideas (including his doubts about the existence of God). Emma, a highly religious person, worried about these doubts, and the two spent much of their lives discussing their ideas and opinions. Heiligman’s biography of Charles and Emma sheds light on the famous scientist’s personal life, allowing readers to see the Darwins as a couple in love, despite their fundamental ideological differences.

I thought this book was interesting, but I don’t know how interesting it will be to young adult readers today. It won the first YALSA nonfiction award in 2010, but it seems YA nonfiction has grown in leaps and bounds since that time. This book has no pictures and is organized like a novel (with chapters), but it doesn’t have the same fast pace a novel would have. Don’t get me wrong — the information and subjects are certainly interesting, but the presentation and delivery are off. I liked seeing a biography of Charles and Emma that focused on their love story (a great one, by the way), but I wanted a faster pace to the work.

Rating: 3/5

*YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults, Winner, 2010

*National Book Award Finalist
*Printz Honor Book

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.


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