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Galapagos George written by Jean Craighead George and stunningly illustrated by Wendell Minor is such a sad and special book. Sad because it is the true story of Lonesome George, the very last of his magnificent species – the saddleback tortoises from the island of Pinta in the Galapagos Islands. And special because the story of the evolution of the sadddleback tortoises is fascinating and deserves to be told as well as remembered. Lonesome George’s ancestor, Giantess George arrived in the Galapagos Island along with several relatives after a violent storm washes them off the coast of South America. Here, they settle and adapt, and this is the fascinating part – for their adaptation is a wondrous thing: necks elongate, and shells change shape. These fabulous creatures survive and thrive…until those ships arrive, bringing human beings. Like Seymour Simon, Jean Craighead George writes in a way that makes nonfiction writing informational and poetic. Here, for example is how she describes Giantess George’s voyage:
Then a storm struck South America. It poured down seas of rain. It rolled the ocean up onto the land. The ocean roared back to the sea, sweeping away trees, cacti, and many kinds of living things. Among them was Giantess George.
She was tumbled into the purple-black ocean. She swirled down into whirlpools. She spun underwater with the land creatures – iguanas, lizards, and the furry mammals, large and small.
Galapagos George is a wonderful addition to our classroom library – as a research resource, as well as a mentor text for our writing workshop.
Here is a BBC clip about Lonesome George: