Bookshelf Information

Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species


This beautiful book explains Charles Darwin’s famous work, ‘On the Origin of Species’ in a clear, child-friendly manner. Setting the scene with ‘a few clever and curious scientists…who challenged’ the idea that everything in the world had always been the same, the book then focuses on Darwin and his work.


Each of Darwin’s ideas is illustrated and explained, with quotes from Darwin throughout. Each point is broken down into clear, easily managed sections, enabling the reader to comprehend some quite challenging ideas. Darwin’s voice can be heard as quotes from his work are included, injecting the book with a sense of his enthusiasm, wonder and excitement. The main points of his thinking are summarised in a conclusion at the end with a final note reminding us that the process of evolution continues.


An excellent appendix offers yet more information on this fascinating subject, up-dating some ideas in light of current research. The section on misconceptions is particularly valuable and a clear glossary explains some of the main terms. There are even some suggestions for further reading.

Y6 Science Programme of Study Evolution and inheritance stares that children should be taught to:

  • recognise that living things have changed over time and that fossils provide information about living things that inhabited the Earth millions of years ago

  • recognise that living things produce offspring of the same kind, but normally offspring vary and are not identical to their parents

  • identify how animals and plants are adapted to suit their environment in different ways and that adaptation may lead to evolution

This lovely book supports a class teacher in fulfilling these aims and makes an excellent addition to the library, allowing children to further explore and investigate Darwin’s ideas, challenging them to observe and notice the world around them. Combining scientific ideas with beautiful artwork, ‘Darwin's On the Origin of Species’ is a real must have!

Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species Retold and illustrated by Sabina Radeva

Penguin ISBN: 978-0141388502

Paper World: Planet Earth


Today is the publication day of Paper World: Planet Earth. This is a beautifully presented book, full of information about our fabulous planet.


Each spread investigates a geological feature from the layers of the planet to why a volcano erupts to the features of deserts. Clever use of paper cutting allows links between subjects to be made from page to page and lift-the-flaps reveal additional information and details.


For example, on the ‘Volcanoes’ pages, a cross section of a volcano is revealed, clearly labelling the different parts. Another flap conceals a submarine volcano and explains what ‘pillow lava’ is. Correct geographical terms are used throughout the book, with many explained as they are used and an additional glossary at the end.


Each section starts with a succinct explanation of the feature and lots of additional facts, making it more than a novelty book. Areas of study from the KS2 Geography National Curriculum are beautifully introduced here in a way that informs as well as capturing interest. The use of die-cuts and flaps might be a way of inspiring children to adopt a similar approach to presenting their own research, explaining how things happen in a very visual manner.


A delightful book, full of facts and ingenious use of illustration, ‘Paper World: Planet Earth’ is a wonderful way to explore our incredible planet.

Paper World: Planet Earth


Templar ISBN: 978-1787410411

The Bluest of Blues


I found this beautiful book whilst on stage one of my Half Term Book Crawl at Foyles on the Southbank. To my shame, it is about another pioneering woman I had not previously heard of- Anna Atkins, often considered the first person to publish a book illustrated with photographic images and claimed by some to be the first woman to create a photograph.


Focusing on the close relationship she had with her father after the death of her mother, the book tells of how he greatly encouraged Anna’s education, particularly in the sciences, which was most unusual for women at that time.


Anna became a skilled botanist, collecting and cataloguing British specimens and eventually creating highly detailed drawings which were turned into engravings for her father’s book about shells. After her marriage, she created an herbarium, preparing, mounting and storing hundreds of specimens.

In 1841, her father gave her a camera , but it was her introduction to Herschel’s discovery of the cyanotype print which allowed her to create the pictures for a book of her specimens.


An author’s note at the end explains more about Anna and how her story has been told in this book. Information on how to make a cyanotype- a sun print- and additional information explaining how the author created some of the illustrations are fascinating. Some of the illustrations are examples of Anna’s own work, each credited. The amount of research and attention to detail offered by Fiona Robinson in this work is echoed by her using the same dedication for this book that Anna Atkins used for hers:

To my dearest Father this attempt is affectionately inscribed

This wonderful book has sent my teacher gene into overdrive as I can see it forming a key part of science work on the Y6 ‘Living Things and their Habitats’ Science unit. In this it says, pupils should be taught to:

  • describe how living things are classified into broad groups according to common observable characteristics and based on similarities and differences, including micro-organisms, plants and animals

  • give reasons for classifying plants and animals based on specific characteristics

Anna’s dedication to her subject is a great example of working scientifically in action and the use of sun prints to record collections, creating class herbariums might inspire children’s creativity and enjoyment of this area. Unlike Anna, whether a girl or a boy, they will be able to present their findings to audiences, taking pride in sharing their knowledge.

Inspiring and beautiful, ‘The Bluest of Blues’ shows the role women played in the development of science and art, encouraging everyone who reads it to discover and explore .

The Bluest of Blues Fiona Robinson

Abrams ISBN: 978-1419725517