Blog Tour: National Non-Fiction November

Today, we are delighted to be part of the Blog Tour for National Non-Fiction November, which is an annual celebration of non-fiction for children and young people organised by the Federation of Children’s Book Groups (FCBG).

This year’s theme is The Planet We Share, reflecting the widespread concern for our beautiful planet which is under serious threat, not least from climate change and plastic pollution. Non-fiction can also provide inspiration for taking action, shine a spotlight on the wonder and beauty of the natural world and promote a real sense of hope for the future.

As part of the blog tour, FCBG invited us to review two illustrated non-fiction titles that explore the lives of Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, both of whom were known for their study of natural selection and whose expedition stories may inspire children engaging with science and encourage them to explore the incredible detail of the world around them.

1. Darwin’s Rival

By Christiane Dorion & Harry Tennant (Walker)

This is a beautiful book to look at and feel, with an attractive embossed cover. Inside is just as beautiful – with Tennant’s illustrations evoking the lush green tropical forests and bright blue waters where Wallace spent his adult years.

Alfred Russel Wallace was a British naturalist who worked alongside Darwin on the study of natural selection. It is with warmth and admiration that the authors share the details of Wallace’s life and the importance of his discoveries. Rather than a rival to Darwin, the book reveals Wallace to be a generous scientist who was happy to share his ideas to support Darwin, humbly allowing Darwin to take the limelight for what was a shared discovery.

I was intrigued to see how I would manage to read a book with such dense, continuous text with few subtitles or text boxes to distract. I was desperate to read the field notes he’d written alongside the sketches of the insects, although the extracts of Wallace’s notebooks are blurred – however where field notes are provided in text boxes within the main body of the text these offer a fascinating glimpse into Wallace’s thoughts and, in particular, how he marvelled at the wonders he discovered. The book would be enjoyed by Y6 children who enjoy a more challenging non-fiction read. However, there is much to be enjoyed by other readers who prefer a more ‘flick-through’ approach to non-fiction.

This is an important book which celebrates the life of one of our less well-known scientists and recognises that no scientific discovery is truly the work of one scientist and that science is a collaborative, sharing endeavour. It would work well as a companion to the book ‘What Mr Darwin saw’ by Mick Mannning and Brita Granstrom.

You can order Darwin's Rival on Amazon or from Bookshop.

Reviewer: Emma Rogers

2. When Darwin Sailed the Sea

By David Long & Sam Kalda (Wide-Eyed Editions)

When Darwin Sailed the Sea, published on the 200th anniversary of the launch of HMS Beagle, is a book full of wonder for those children intrigued by our natural world.

In this book, we find out about Charles Darwin’s early life and career and his five year voyage on the Beagle. We learn, in more detail, about some of the fascinating places he visited, such as the Galapagos Islands and about the ground breaking work he did there. We find out about his theory on natural selection and the book explains it in terms that children will understand, while not oversimplifying it. The book also includes information about how such ideas were received at the time and why they were so contentious. We learn about Darwin’s legacy today and we find out what became of HMS Beagle. At the back of the book, there are examples of some of Darwin’s major discoveries in the animal and plant kingdom and a brief introduction to those people that influenced or helped Darwin in his endeavours. A glossary and a timeline are also included at the back of the book.

All this fascinating information is pitched perfectly for the young reader, is beautifully presented in a hard-back format and accompanied by many wonderful drawings and illustrations which children will love and which help to present the life and work of Darwin.

This is a must-have book for any child interested in natural history, perfect for KS2 classes. It fits beautifully with the science topic of Evolution and also provides wonderful biographical information to support cross-curricular work. A real treasure-trove of a book.

You can order When Darwin Sailed the Sea on Amazon or from Bookshop.


For more non-fiction ideas, check out our new Top-Notch Non-Fiction booklist.

Many thanks to the publishers for sending us a review copy of these books and to our Review Panel members for reviewing them.

National Non-Fiction November is an annual celebration of non-fiction for children and young people, organized by the Federation of Children’s Book Groups. Find out more information, ideas and resources at

Where next? > Visit our Reading for Pleasure Hub

> Browse our Topic Booklists

> View our printable year group booklists.

> See our Books of the Month.


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