The True Adventures of Charley Darwin
By Carolyn Meyer

Book Cover

In The True Adventures of Charley Darwin, Carolyn Meyer skillfully portrays Charles’ early life, a topic not usually seen in books about him. The book is narrated by Charles himself as he searches for his calling in life. While on the HMS Beagle, Charles makes a startling discovery that goes against all common beliefs. This discovery changes Charles’ life and millions of other people’s lives for eternity.
This story presents multiple setting but the places we see Charley in most are: Shrewbury, England, the HMS Beagle, and London, England. Charles spent great deal of time (five years to be exact) on the HMS Beagle. He described one of the places as this, “This town seemed the very stronghold of vice with spirit shops everywhere and a whole population addicted to drunkenness. Their houses are filthy, and the idea of washing themselves or their clothes appeared never to cross their minds.” London was the site of many scientific circles, many of which Charles participated in after his historic journey on the HMS Beagle, for that reason Charles decided to live there for a while. Charles Darwin experienced many exotic and astonishing places on his voyage with the Beagle, but mainly stayed in Shrewsbury before his trip and London afterwards.

Charles Darwin was a fascinating man, both in his childhood and his adult life. As a child he could always be found outside, exploring, collecting, or fishing. He also showed his spontaneity when he agreed to board the HMS Beagle. Although he was warned it was to be an arduous journey, he still decided to go. As a child and an adult, Darwin invested lots of time into science-related activities. Charles and Ras, his brother, conducted various small experiments with the items their father allowed them to purchase in their laboratory. Another example, and a more well-known example of him being scientific, is his idea of evolution he observed in the Galapagos Islands. Throughout his life he didn’t take pleasure in going to social outings and often stayed home. Although Charles wasn’t very social, he was a thought-provoking man in other ways.

To begin the story, Charles Darwin, as a young boy, is very carefree and outdoorsy. He often explored outside and collected anything he found appealing. Charles had a vehement dislike for Shrewbury Boarding School and was somewhat rebellious. Charles said “I was certain I could not survive the beastly place (Shrewbury Boarding School) another day. One day, Charles gets the startling offer to join the HMS Beagle on a journey around the world. While on the Beagle he finds that his true calling is in science and decides that after the trip he will pursue an occupation in science. Charles then organized his specimens and discovers a pattern, and then, after consulting an expert, he discovers something that will insure his name is written with the greats of history, and that will alter millions of people’s views on Creation.

Darwin was somewhat indecisive, and often argued with himself over topics unimportant and important. Ditching the voyage was on Darwin’s mind frequently. Secondly, he argued with himself over if he believed in creation or evolution. On one hand the evidence he collected at the Galapagos Islands lead him to believe in evolution, but on another hand he didn’t want to go against the normal belief of Creation. Lastly, he quarreled with himself over whether or not to marry. Being single was enjoyable for him; he could do whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted, and for however long he wanted to do it, but he also wanted a wife. Because Darwin was irresolute, I believe he contemplated all the options for a long time, but I think he always came to the solution he thought best.

The True Adventures of Charley Darwin presents multiple themes, but the most prevalent to me where: patience, thinking before acting, and holding on to your beliefs. Charles acted patiently when the Beagle’s captain, Robert Fitzroy, redirected the ship to the ships previous location to better map the area. Such frequent redirections extended the voyage three years. A theme also portrayed in this book is thinking before acting. Often Charles agonized for many days over the Beagle’s journey. Last of all, a theme that was in The True Adventures of Charley Darwin was holding on to your beliefs. When pondering going on the Beagle, Charles was met with adversity. His father disagreed with it; and many others disagreed with it. I think being patient, thinking before acting, and holding on to your beliefs are all vital, and I think Carolyn Meyer clearly shows the value and rewards of all.

About the Author
Carolyn Meyer has made many books for young adults including: Mary, Bloody Mary, Anastasia: The Last Grand Duchess, and White Lilacs. The True Adventures of Charley Darwin is the first of her several books to feature a male narrator. Carolyn usually works in historical fiction, and she has a series, Young Royals, that focuses on royal females. She resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico with her husband.

Historical Background
In England, the 19th century was a bustling place. The Industrial Revolution was improving factory work by replacing mainly human labor with new and innovative steam-powered machines. New ideas and inventions were arising, and more than ever people were interested in exploring alternatives to every-day life. Evolution was a relatively new concept, and radical at that. Charles book on evolution was postponed because he wanted make sure he had all his facts right and enough supporting evidence to publish the book without humiliation. Overall, this time period was ideal to bring this idea to light, and for Charles’ work to be accepted among scientists of his time.

The True Adventures of Charley Darwin is an incredible book that illuminates Charles Darwin’s early life. The book is narrated by Charles as he encounters things, people, and cultures. For the girls, it includes all the drama that goes along with marriage, and Charles journey to find his true love. It portrays how finding your true calling, not settling for less, will truly reward you more than you can imagine, and how patience is key. I highly recommend this book, for it has a never-seen-before topic, a great balance of adventure, drama, and suspense, ups-and-downs, and it illustrates Charles Darwin’s quest to find his calling.

Meyer, Carolyn. The True Adventures of Charley Darwin. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009. Print

Ethan R.
Mr. Schuster-Language Arts
Edgerton Middle School
Edgerton, WI 53534