The passing of Lonesome George, the last of the saddleback tortoises from the island of Pinta, provides the occasion to demonstrate how different species might descend from a common ancestor.
Swept from her desert home by a storm and washed up on a distant island with some of her relatives, the elderly tortoise’s imagined ancestor, Giantess George, was lucky. She was able to feed in her new home, to breed and to have numerous slightly differing descendants, each group adapted to its particular Galápagos island. The story continues with the arrival of humans, a visit by Charles Darwin and the transport of Giantess George’s last descendent, Lonesome George, to a research center on Santa Cruz Island in the early 1970s. There, he lived out the rest of his life; no one ever found him a mate. When he died in 2012, he was thought to be over 100 years old. Minor’s paintings are gorgeous, befitting the awesome Galápagos scenery and including representative plants and animals. But the posthumously published text oversimplifies. It describes Darwin speculating about the giant tortoises’ common ancestor, but at the time, he didn’t realize they were different species. It condenses the adaptation process. Even the backmatter doesn’t use the phrase “natural selection,” and the very important term “evolution” is defined incorrectly.
A heartfelt if imperfect tribute to one George by another who will also be missed. (key terms, timeline, resources) (Picture book. 5-8)