There are so many brilliant books which I am scared may get missed by readers due to the inability to visit actual bookshops and see them in all their glory. Today, I’m delighted to be high-lighting the wonderful ‘Darwin’s Dragons’ by Lindsay Galvin.
This is an essential for any teacher who teaches ‘Evolution and Inheritance’ in science and has been searching for a brilliant novel to complement the unit. Or for any teacher who is just searching for a brilliant class read to spark conversation and imagination.
– 1835 –
‘Cabin boy Syms Covington is on the voyage of a lifetime to the Galápagos Islands with the world-famous scientist Charles Darwin.
But when Syms falls overboard during a huge storm, he washes up on an unexplored island. Stranded there, he makes a discovery that could change the world…
Now it’s not just his own survival at stake – the future of an undiscovered species is in his hands.’
I absolutely loved this book! Not only did it give me new insights into the strange, barren majesty of the Galápagos Islands, it also managed to incorporate a thrilling adventure, historical fact and completely believable dragons! I was totally swept away firstly by Sym’s battle for survival, then by his battle to have the dragons cared for in an appropriate manner.
After finishing the book, I had some questions for author Lindsay Galvin which she was kind enough to answer:
1. I’ve never read a fictional account of Darwin’s adventure. What inspired you to write one?
I’ve taught classes about Evolution and Darwin and always found the subject fascinating, but Darwin’s Dragons didn’t start out as a Darwin story at all. In first draft the story was set in the present day and was about a dragon sanctuary, but when I decided to add a historical thread, Darwin appeared, and his cabin-boy Syms Covington took over the whole story!
2. What kind of research did you do to ensure your work was accurate?
I started by reading Darwin’s and Syms Covington’s journals from The Beagle. I visited Downe House — Darwin’s home — and spent time in his study, plus chattedwith the Darwin experts who worked there. I also went behind the scenes at the Natural History Museum to see Darwin’s actual specimens in their original storage bottles. I wasn’t able to the visit the Galapagos but luckily the brilliant David Attenborough had made the Galapagos documentary and I often played this in the background while I wrote. To get the London cave setting right I visited Chislehurst Caves in Kent which was spooky and atmospheric.
3. Why did you decide that dragons would be the creature discovered on these islands?
The one thing I knew from the start was that this was a dragon story, but I wanted it to be a realistic as possible. If dragons had survived without discovery until 1835 then they needed to be someone very remote. Once I knew I wanted to include Darwin, the Galapagos seemed like the obvious choice. The active volcanoes of the Galapagos are a bonus…becausewhere else would you expect to find fire breathing dragons?
4. Farthing reminded me a lot of a faithful let dog. Who were they modelled on?
Farthing is mostly based on the dogs I grew up with, particularly lovely Hettie, and my sisters three dogs. I the time I wrote it I really wanted a dog of my own, and now I’m lucky enough to have one! But I also wanted Farthing’s behaviour to be reptilian and spent some lovely time with a friend’s bearded dragon called Hobnob plus researched dinosaur behaviour.
5. I also enjoyed reading about a chippy young Queen Elizabeth – was she fun to write?
I really enjoyed looking at a different side the historical characters we are so familiar with. Queen Victoria had a painfully strict and lonely upbringing where she wasn’t even allowed to walk down the stairs unaccompanied. I loved giving her power and freedom and exploring what a teenage queen might do faced with an incredible new species.
6. Can we expect a sequel where Sym’s daughter Emmeline has an adventure of her own?
I would never say never! But that’s not the book I’m currently working on, which features murderous secrets and a beast with three hearts, set in a Victorian aquarium.
Darwin’s Dragon by Lindsay Galvin out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)
You really, really need to treat yourself, or any readers aged nine plus, to a copy of this amazing book!
*Many thanks to Chicken House for sending me this title to review*