I should have posted my review of Charles and Emma: The Darwins's Leap of Faith yesterday, as it was the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of the Species, but I didn't think about it yesterday.
The book has been much praised, and for the most part it deserves that praise. It is a well-researched biography of Charles Darwin and his wife Emma, based largely on their letters to each other and journals. The Darwins were a very loving couple, but they differed from each other greatly on religous matters, and that is the area that the book mainly focuses upon.
I think the author did a good job of not taking sides on the issue, and leaving us to see both Charles and Emma as having a sincere and legitimate point of view. The personal details also shine a lot of light on why Darwin took so long to publish his theory of evolution, as he struggled with his unwillingness to cause controversy and pain to his religious wife and friends, and as he struggled with poor personal health and the death of several children.
For really young readers, this book might prove too long and dry, but middle and high schoolers would get a great deal from it. Reading the book inspired me to imagine a religious education curriculum for my church, looking at Darwin (who grew up a Unitarian), different creation myths, evolutionary process, and the modern controversy of evolution vs. creationism. Wouldn't that be a rich study for my 4th-5th grade class! I hope to put something like this together in the next few years.
In the meantime, I have a few picture books about Darwin and evolution from the library that I will read to Carbon.