Galápagos Islands by Karen Romano Young

Galápagos Islands – at a glance

The School Reading Lists’ five word review: Non-fiction, science, travelogue, nature, adventure.
Children’s book title: Galápagos Islands: The World’s Living Laboratory.
Children’s author: Karen Romano Young.
Children’s illustrator: Amy Grimes.
Genre: Children’s non-fiction .
Published by: What on Earth Books.
ISBN: 9781804661147.
Recommended for children aged: 10-14 year-olds.
First published: Hardback June 2024.
This children’s book is ideal for: Inspiring planet activists & explorers.

Galápagos Islands by Karen Romano Young

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Our review:

Welcome to the Galápagos Islands!
Here you will explore a world where locals and visiting scientists live among giant tortoises, salt-snorting iguanas, diving penguins and erupting volcanoes.

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The Galápagos Islands are one of those far-flung places that most of us only learn about in geography lessons and David Attenborough documentaries. Far from the normal holiday trail, this group of 21 islands in the Pacific Ocean is home to just 30,000 people – but a whole lot of incredible wildlife.

Galápagos Islands is a beautifully presented non-fiction guide to one of the world’s most biodiverse and ecologically vital environments. The book is subtitled ‘The World’s Living Laboratory’, and the focus is on how scientific discoveries both past and present have shed life on our fragile global ecosystem.

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These islands are the setting for a natural experiment that has taught us how life starts, shifts shape and restarts, and the setting for a new experiment that might light the way forward for the rest of the world.

Unlike many other non-fiction titles which tend to present facts in a rather isolated and contextless manner, Galápagos Islands is written as a travelogue. Author Karen Romano Young narrates her own journey around the islands while reflecting on how explorers and scientists of the past studied the area’s geography, geology and wildlife. This gives the book a unique appeal, immersing the reader in the narrative.

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Galápagos Islands is full of amazing nature and ground-breaking scientific discoveries. Highlights include:

  • How scientists first discovered life on the seafloor in a hydrothermal vent named the Rose Garden.
  • The impact that Charles Dawin’s research on finches had on both the scientific and religious communities across the world.
  • Why real pirate treasure can still be found on the Galápagos Islands.
  • Amazingly diverse creatures ranging from the ‘vampire squid from hell’ to the giant tortoise that can live for over 100 years.

Although the book presents a wealth of information, the reader never feels overwhelmed. The large colorful illustrations enhance the text and give the book great visual appeal. This is not a dry science lesson but rather a real-life, lavishly illustrated account of an inspiring trip, with a healthy dose of information woven into the narrative.

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Profiles of key scientists and wildlife campaigners give a personal touch to the text. The focus on ecological damage and the need to live in harmony with our planet adds a highly relevant note that is likely to be particularly inspiring to young climate change activists.

The book contains helpful footnotes to explain some of the more scientific terms and give a sense of context, for example – that the volcano La Cumbre is “as wide as 550 telegraph poles laid end to end and deep enough to stand two Shards on top of one another inside with lots of room to spare”. A glossary at the end of the book and a page of source notes add to the scientific integrity of the text.

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Galápagos Islands is a beautifully designed and immersive book that will appeal to future scientists and explorers.

Many thanks to What On Earth Books for the review copy.

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If you like Galápagos Islands by Karen Romano Young you might also like: our reviews of The Wild Life of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals by Mike Barfield, Solstice: Around the World on the Longest, Shortest Day by Jen Breach, How to Teach Grown-Ups About Climate Change by Patricia Daniels, Evolution by Sarah Darwin and Eva-Maria Sadowski and Against the Odds by Alastair Humphreys, illustrated by Pola Mai.

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About Melanie Dillon

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Melanie has a Master’s degree in Information and Library Management; a Post Graduate Certificate in Children’s Literature focusing on the Reading Agency’s Reading Well scheme & LGBT YA fiction, and extensive experience working in school and public libraries. Linkedin | Reviews by Melanie Dillon