by Jean Craighead George; illus. by Wendell Minor
Primary Harper/HarperCollins 40 pp.
4/14 978-0-06-028793-1 $15.99 g
Jean Craighead George begins the evolutionary story of the tortoises on Galápagos archipelago with a single female, Giantess George, and asks readers to extrapolate from the life cycle of that one animal to the development of the species as a whole. The saga begins like a folktale, with the long ago and far away: “This is a story that took so long to happen that only the stars were present at the beginning and the end,” which signals to readers that this narrative may be a fictional one. But the account abruptly changes when Giantess George and other tortoises are caught in a major storm and transported to different islands; over thousands of years, they evolve into different sub-species. Here readers must become literary switch hitters, changing their perspective mid-book from reading about the character Giantess George (a tortoise) to a generalized species of animals (the tortoises). The account concludes with another switch, this time from species back to individual, with the death of the last Galápagos tortoise, Galápagos George (a.k.a. Lonesome George). Minor’s painterly illustrations showcase the changing setting and the magnificence of the tortoises. The book concludes with a glossary, a timeline (from three million years ago until the death of Galápagos George in 2012), a bibliography, and suggested websites.