Charles and Emma: The Darwin’s Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman (2009)

On the voyage, Charles had been vigorous and brave. He withstood horrible seasickness, weathered harsh conditions, witnessed a battle in Bahia Blanca, Argentina, and experienced an earthquake in Valvivia, Chile. … But now, back in London in 1838, he truly was scared. the thought of marriage and of Emma terrified him and gave him serious headaches. He knew she was religious, and he was consumed by the fear that his secret idea would go against her beliefs (p 47).

Charles and Emma is a lovely narrative examining the famous English Naturalist, Charles Darwin, against the backdrop of his relationship with his wife and cousin (it was common practice to marry first cousins at the time), Emma Darwin. Very readable, flowing text really introduced me to Darwin, the person. Reference to Jane Austin and Dickens helped me picture the place and time.

Charles and Emma was a 2010 National Book Award Finalist and a Printz Honor Award winner.

3 thoughts on “Charles and Emma: The Darwin’s Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman (2009)

  1. I love the cover for this book, which is such a relief because I had thought Kiki Walker ruined silhouettes for me forever.

    Also, this is an official invitation to join my “Finding the ‘good’ parents in YA Lit” challenge and post your own list of books with “good” parents (in addition to the emailed message for symmetry’s sake).

    You can find all the information here:


  2. Hey! I just finished this one and adored it. It was interesting to see how they overcame such a huge difference in faith. They seemed to really love one another.

  3. Yes, I found this book personally inspirational. I am an atheist and my partner has a strong belief in God (if not religious institutions). We have successfully cohabited for two years but we have yet to overcome the challenge of religion & children. This book brought me hope that we may be successful even with our religious differences.

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