Mr Darwin and the ape boy ISBN: 9780582796331
Published by Pearson Longman (Streetwise series), 2004
Eliza is part of a large and loving family, one child of which has massive disabilities both learning and physical. Arnie is loved by his family, but will never be able to look after himself. Set in the 19th Century, the story revolves around Eliza's questions about why Arnie is the way he is, in the context of local celebrity Charles Darwin's 'Origin of Species' and the major upheaval this has caused. Meg, Eliza's older sister, works for the Darwins and has come to understand some of his ideas. She argues his case well and feels he is a good man. The local Vicar thinks otherwise. 'Blasphemy,' he says. Eliza worries that someone must be right, either the Darwinians or the Creationists, but the problem is which, and if God is the creator, why did he create Arnie as he is? An encounter with Mr Darwin, when Eliza confronts him with her questions, brings forth the great man's belief that Arnie has a talent for being loved, and that this is why he exists. A gang of bullies at the local school has made life hard for Arnie and his family, calling him 'ape boy', which Arnie seems to go along with and even enjoy. So much is packed into these 48 pages, so many ideas, so much thought. No easy answers, but philosophical debate written in a clear and most interesting style. The characterisation is believable, and the black and white woodcuts add to the whole. A most thought-provoking short novel.