A DISCOVERY OF DRAGONS, by Lindsay Galvin, Chicken House, July 6, 2021, Hardcover, $18.99 (ages 8-12)
In A Discovery of Dragons, author Lindsay Gavin imagines a very different sort of find during Charles Darwin’s expedition to the Galapagos Islands.
It’s 1835. Cabin boy Simon Covington is on the voyage of a lifetime to the Galapagos Islands with the world-famous scientist, Charles Darwin. But when Simon 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. But perhaps there’s one person who could help … —Synopsis provided by Chicken House
There are so many things to like about A Discovery of Dragons — adventure, volcanoes, dragons. But my favorite part was Simon. Simon has moved up from ship’s fiddler and cabin boy to assisting Darwin. He’s got a keen mind and a clear head. When disaster hits, he allows a quick moment of panic before making a plan and moving forward. And he does this over, and over and over again.
While shipwrecked, Simon is befriended by a lizard, which he names Farthing. Farthing is a new discovery, a new kind of lizard. And Simon looks at Farthing through the eyes of a scientist. He applies the same principles he’s learned with other creatures to him, although he doesn’t latch on to a key element until much later on.
A Discovery of Dragons can be divided into two parts — the island and back in England. I preferred the first part, the part on the island. Though the stakes are high, it’s a lot simpler, too. It’s Simon alone with his thoughts and Farthing, and sometimes other creatures. There’s a lot of action, but it’s also quiet. This is where you really get a to know him. Simon’s actions in England are a further progression of the person you already know.
Author Lindsay Galvin does an excellent job setting the scene. You do feel as if you’re at the Galapagos. And though she adopts the more formal language of the time, it never feels stiff or stilted.
A Discovery of Dragons isn’t high fantasy, but it asks you to imagine “what if?” which might be even better.
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