Life on earth is diverse and complex. Currently, there are eight million or so species which all evolved from a simple, single-celled organism around 3.5 billion years ago. Charles Darwin’s ground-breaking theory of evolution, described in On the Origin of Species, not only overturned centuries of misunderstanding of the natural world, but also rocked contemporary understanding of our place in that world.
Sabina Radeva’s first published book is this marvellous adaptation of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species: richly illustrated, accessible and engaging. Radeva has an M.Sc. in Molecular Biology from the Max Planck Institute in Germany, later changing tack to study as an illustrator at the University of Hertfordshire. Here, she talks about her inspiration, her processes and techniques. She tells us that it is possible to condense a lot of information into one single illustration, and that this is what makes the picture book format so useful for retelling lengthy and complex texts in a more accessible form. The video clip is just over three minutes long, but packed with thoughtful insights, as well as a fascinating overview of the illustrator’s way of working.
The book has been shortlisted for the 2020 Klaus Flugge Prize, which is awarded to the most promising and exciting newcomer to children’s picture book illustration. The attention to detail is terrific and it’s not surprising to learn that the book took two years to complete. After a faithful picture book adaptation of Darwin’s work, there is an appendix dedicated to advances in our understanding since that time, and a section covering and debunking common misconceptions. It is a wonderful book – highly recommended.