Discovering Life on Earth Critical Essays

David Attenborough


(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

The number of natural science books available to young readers is large and ever-increasing. Discovering Life on Earth offers a high-quality, straightforward, factual approach that presents documentation about the variety of life that has existed on Earth through geological eras and that continues to exist today. The organization that Attenborough employs is logical and easy to follow. The development of lifeforms from the simple to the increasingly complex is treated in an interesting manner with the inclusion of representative examples that capture the imagination and attention of the younger reader. While natural selection is an underlying theme of the book, Attenborough does not overtly address organic evolution.

This is an ambitious work. The animal kingdom is composed of several million species in existence today, and a vast number more are a part of the geological record of life on Earth. Paring down this population to a comprehensible level without losing meaning is a formidable task. As an accomplished scientist and producer of television programming that concerns animals, Attenborough has skillfully picked and chosen among the possibilities and has delivered a finished product that retains coherence and valid content. While the arrangement of the chapters does not deliver complete faithfulness to phylogeny, it is a logical approach to the animal kingdom and should not cause any discernable conceptual errors.

Each chapter brings the reader into immediate involvement with the topic, losing no time to long-winded introductions. Attention-getting incidents and stories carry the reader into the content of the chapter, with many engrossing examples provided along the way. There is a captioned photograph for almost every animal described. Stories unfold as Attenborough presents puzzles and questions...

(The entire section is 749 words.)