Exposing Children to Charles Darwin :
"The Humblebee Hunter"
“The Humblebee Hunter” by Deborah Hopkinson is a short children’s book centered around looking at the famous naturalist Charles Darwin in a domestic atmosphere. The book tells a fictitious story about Darwin having a little experiment over bumblebees with his children. As Hopkinson explains in her introduction, she understands that many know of Darwin’s purely scientific side but many are unaware of the family man that he was. It was her goal to show a softer, more relatable side to Charles Darwin.
In doing this, I feel that Deborah Hopkinson was aiming to introduce children to Darwin by making him a simple, relatable figure—a father. The book shows Darwin’s influence over his own children and how his interests have been caught by them.
For example, when the main character of the story, Henrietta—one of Darwin’s daughters, is being taught to learn to bake a honey cake, she gets distracted by seeing her father studying the bees in the back yard. She then goes on to say how much she loves hearing about the adventures her father has been on and all the different stories of his experiments. Shortly after rejecting the baking lesson, she and her other siblings gather in the back yard to aid their father in an experiment that determines how many flowers a bee can pollinate in a single minute.
The story shows a simplification of science and a child’s natural aptitude to experimenting. Hopkinson took the idea of a child’s infinite curiosity and applied it to a subject that not many know how to convey properly. The story does not seem forced or like it was trying to convey something that was too mature for its audience. This book took a simple idea, that children are curious and they like to find answers, and put it together with a person, Darwin, who probably would not have been the first choice for a children’s book—in the eyes of some parents.
In the back of the book, there is even a small description of who Charles Darwin was and then it gives a separate section on him and his family. Overall, I really like how Hopkinson dealt with this book. I feel that she did a fantastic job at introducing a small idea that could easily spark an interest with Darwin or just science in general. After reading the book, children might be more inclined to ask about this man “Charles Darwin” and “what was so important about him anyway?”
This small fictitious story is so easy to take in and I feel that parents, who are a part of the target audience since they are the ones buying the book after all, would not find it controversial or have a problem buying it for their children. I think that this small book would be a good starter on introducing a child to the influence of science without having to deal with too many issues or preconceptions that some parents might have about Charles Darwin.