• Allison Diehl

We're Sailing to Galapagos (Review)

Updated: Nov 21, 2020

Author: Laurie Krebs

Illustrator: Grazia Restelli

Publisher: Barefoot Books, 2005

Interest Level: Ages 4 to 10

Reading Level: Guided Reading Level M; 2nd Grade

Retail: $8.99, paperback

Summary: The first part of this book is a sing-song rhyme about visiting the Galapagos Islands and seeing the landscape, plants, and animals there. The last nine pages are endnotes about the islands themselves, nineteenth century scientist Charles Darwin, and the many species that live there.

This book played a central role in my decision to become a children's bookseller in 2005. I was looking for books to share with my children that introduced basic concepts of anthropology, and mentions of Charles Darwin in books for young children are almost non-existent. As it turns out, this book touches only uses the word "evolve" in a single sentence in the endnotes. The majority of the book is an exploration of the amazing wildlife that is unique to the Galapagos.

Rhyming books are very important for young children because the music of language and repetition is engaging. Children can (and often do) memorize the lines and anticipate the rhymes, an important pre-reading activity. It isn't difficult to make a reading time a lot of fun when the text practically invites you to sway and dance. This experience helps children develop an appreciation of reading in general and to see books as a source of pleasure. I love that this particular title can also foster creativity and set the stage for an interest in science as well.

I am a tough critic when it comes to children's books with rhyme. They need to be easy to read aloud without awkward extra syllables or pronunciations. The poetry of We're Sailing to Galapagos is well done. It has a chorus of sorts, but I haven't figure out what tune to use for it. Any suggestions?

The illustrations are paper collages that jump off the page with color and depth. They invite close inspection and yield small new visual treasures with each reading. Two people with darker skin and garb reminiscent of South America sail through the adventure and demonstrate that people are merely observers in this incredible land.

The endnotes of this title, as with many Barefoot Books, are the hidden gems of the story. This book is not simply a rhyming book, but also a non-fiction book chock full of unusual words and new vocabulary. One spread explains the geology and formation of the Galapagos Islands and outlines how animals, and later people, arrived. Not one, but three 2-page illustrated spreads are devoted to animals. We learn about the creatures included in the rhyme and many others. The information is basic, but seemingly accurate.

The final page introduces Charles Darwin giving a very brief bio. In an attempt to be epistemologically even-handed, his discoveries are characterized as "one of the ways people think about the natural world." I am not sure who this sentence is for. There are no native peoples who lived on these islands, and I suspect that anyone who is shielding their children from the concept of evolution would avoid any book that deals with Darwin.

We're Sailing to Galapagos is part of a series of titles published by Barefoot Books about cultures and ecosystems around the world. Each features a rhyme followed by extensive endnotes. The series includes Up and Down in the Andes, We're Roaming Through the Rainforest, Off We Go to Mexico, We're Sailing Down the Nile, Riding on a Caravan, and We All Went on Safari.

You can order these books at my Barefoot Books Community Bookseller store.

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