Friday, February 5, 2010

The Sandwalk Adventures

Charles Darwin only took one major trip in his life, but boy was it a doozy. His voyage to the Galapagos Islands on the HMS Beagle allowed him to see extraordinary wildlife that changed how he viewed nature and allowed him to come up with theories of evolution and natural selection. He published his theories in On the Origin of Species, one of the most influential and provocative works of science literature ever. This book is at the center of a great, ongoing debate about the roles of science and religion in the world.

The Sandwalk Adventures portrays a unique version of this debate while also relating Darwin's life history. It is an imagined conversation between Darwin and an eyebrow mite who thinks that Darwin is the God of all eyebrow mites. At first, Darwin thinks that he is going insane, but he comes to realize the remarkable situation for what it is. In the course of the story, Darwin explains his theories of evolution and how they work to counter the religious explanation. As a result, Darwin's theories get laid out in a humorous, concise, and understandable manner. Also, we also learn much about eyebrow mites and their biology.

Jay Hosler, the author of Clan Apis, is responsible for this work. Aside from his work as a graphic novelist, Hosler is an associate professor of biology at Juniata College in Pennsylvania. Part of his academic mission is to create accessible science content in the form of comics. His meticulous research is evident in this volume with the copious annotations at the end of the book. More about Hosler's reasons behind creating this particular volume can be found in this NPR article.

Online critics in general have much praise for this book. Johanna Draper Carlson thought it was insightful, funny, and educational. Sweetwind at SciScoop appreciated the attention to details and and discussion and wrote that the book was great for all readers but especially younger ones. Mike Everleth agrees that the book works on many different levels and that it is a fun, sneaky way to teach children science.

The Sandwalk Adventures originally appeared as a 5-issue comic book series but was collected into one volume in 2003 by Active Synapse. A couple of preview pages are available here.

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