cover artBibliographic Information
Title: Charles and Emma
Author: Deborah Heiligman
ISBN: 978-0312661045
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
Copyright: 2009

Book Details
Jacket Design: Elynn Cohen
Jacket Art & Illustrator:
Formats: Hardcopy, Paperback, Kindle
Page Count: 288 p

Awards: 2009 National Book Award Finalist, Young People’s Literature
2010 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults
2010 Printz Award Honor Book

Plot Summary

Charles Darwin is well-known as the creator of the idea of the evolution of species via natural selection. What is less-known is the role his wife played in the writing of “On the Origin of Species”. Darwin did not rush to print with his idea; quite the contrary. He only published when word came of others thinking along similar lines. One reason for the long gestation of his theory was that his wife, as well as Charles himself, were religious people, and struggled to understand how his ideas on evolution fit with the Biblical narrative.

Critical Evaluation

Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is still controversial – many see it as an attack on religion; an attack on revealed wisdom. But is it? “Charles and Emma” explores the complex process by which Charles Darwin, and his wife Emma, came to understand, and resolve, the ideas created by Darwin’s observations and the history of the physical world as portrayed in the Bible.

Reader’s Annotation

Darwin’s Theory of Evolution – you think you know it, and the man, but you don’t. Find out how and why Darwin struggled, and how his wife, Emma, played a key role.

Information about the Author

Deborah Heiligman was born and raised in Pennsylvania.  She majored in religious studies in college and married a science writer.  She became interested in science too.  This book combines her interest in religion, science, and her belief in the importance of the human connection.


Non-fiction, biography, scientific history.

Curriculum Ties

Science, Biology, Scientific Method, Religion

Booktalking ideas

Human connections

Reading Level/Interest Age
Interest Level: Grades 8 and up

Challenge Issues



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