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A New Picture Book Shows 'What Darwin Saw'

Also: A question from Burma about who was the greatest U.S. president. And dance music by Lady Gaga. Transcript of radio broadcast:


Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.


I'm Doug Johnson. On our show this week…

We tell about a new children's book on Charles Darwin and his famous theory …

Answer a question from Burma about America's greatest presidents …

And listen to wild and fun music from pop performer Lady GaGa.


"What Darwin Saw"


Many people enjoy an adventure story. Others like mysteries that lead the reader to an exciting discovery. The story of the young British naturalist Charles Darwin combines both of these. That is why author and illustrator Rosalyn Schanzer chose to write the children's book "What Darwin Saw: The Journey that Changed the World." The National Geographic Society published her book just in time for the two hundredth anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth on February twelfth, eighteen oh nine. Steve Ember has more.


"What Darwin Saw" is written in graphic novel form. That means it tells its story through pictures as well as words.

Rosalyn Schanzer carefully gathered Darwin's thoughts and observations from his diaries, letters and books. Many of the words in the book are Darwin's own.

Miz Schanzer also traveled to the Galapagos Islands and South America. She researched some of the places Darwin visited on his trip on the ship H.M.S. Beagle in the eighteen thirties. She took thousands of pictures. These helped her create the book's beautiful and colorful drawings. These pictures show young readers what led Darwin to form his great discovery: the evolution of species through natural selection.

"What Darwin Saw" tells of the adventures of a young man who travels around the world as a ship's scientist. Gone is the popular image of Charles Darwin as an old man with a long, white beard. Rosalyn Schanzer shows readers the young man who was only twenty-two years old when he left Plymouth, England in eighteen thirty-one.

ROSALYN SCHANZER: "He was young and I had a very good time drawing his picture because I used a lot of reference material that were paintings made of him at different times in his life.

Miz Schanzer's pictures of Darwin capture the energy and excitement that she sensed in his early writings.

ROSALYN SCHANZER: "During the voyage he was considered to be the most energetic person on the whole ship, the Beagle. And he would have looked great and been all tan with sun-bleached, maybe, hair. And so I was able to take the pictures, combine them and draw him the way I think he might really, possibly, have looked on that trip."

The voyage of the Beagle took Charles Darwin to South America. There he rode horses with cowboys and met Native people in Argentina. He reported the eruption of the Osorno volcano and experienced an earthquake in Chile. Darwin's observations showed him that environments can change a little very quickly and a great deal over time.

But Darwin's story is also a mystery. Rosalyn Schanzer brings to life the clues that suggested to Darwin that living things evolve, or change, over time. She illustrates the unusual tortoises, birds and lizards that Darwin studied in the Galapagos Islands.

She shows how Darwin came to understand that these island animals had differences, developed over time, that helped them survive. And she explains the theory of evolution through natural selection in a way that both children and adults will enjoy.

Great Presidents


Our listener question this week comes from Burma. Kyaw Thu wants to know who the greatest American president was and how he improved the country.

Recently, the television cable network C-Span carried out its second study about the greatest American presidents. Sixty-five presidential historians judged the past forty-two American leaders based on ten qualities of leadership.

The qualities were public persuasion, crisis leadership, economic management, moral leadership and international relations.

The historians also looked at administrative ability, relations with Congress, goal setting and the pursuit of equal justice for all. Finally, the experts considered performance based on the historical period in which the president lived.

The historians chose Abraham Lincoln as America's greatest president. He had also been named best president in a similar study in two thousand. Abraham Lincoln was the only president in American history to lead the nation during a civil war in the eighteen sixties. He united the nation. And he took the first steps that destroyed the institution of slavery in America.

Edna Medford is a professor of history at Howard University in Washington, D.C. She was an adviser on this study and the earlier one. She says Abraham Lincoln is seen to represent the values that the nation most honors like truthfulness, moderation and respect for human rights.

The historians named America's first president, George Washington, as second on the list of greatest presidents. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt and Harry Truman are next in that order. John F. Kennedy, the country's first Roman Catholic president, is sixth on the list. Like Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy was murdered while in office.

Among recent presidents, Ronald Reagan was named the tenth best president. Bill Clinton was rated fifteenth. And the historians rated former president George W. Bush as number thirty-six. His father, George H.W. Bush, did much better. He was rated as number eighteen.

Lady Gaga


Lady GaGa makes music that makes you want to dance. Her performances combine rock, dance, theater and wild clothes. She says that when she discovered the songs of British pop stars David Bowie and Queen, she realized these different things could go together. The twenty-two year old performer says her album "The Fame" is about how anyone can feel famous and all people are invited to the party. Barbara Klein has more.



That was the hit song "Just Dance" from Lady GaGa's first album "The Fame." It gives a good example of her energetic electronic sound.

Lady GaGa's real name is Joanne Stefani Germanotta. The idea for her stage name came from Queen's song "Radio Gaga." Germanotta was born in Yonkers, New York, and grew up in New York City. She taught herself to play the piano at the age of four. By the age of fourteen she was performing at clubs in New York. When she was seventeen, she was accepted into the music program at New York University. Here is the song "Brown Eyes."


Lady GaGa is known for her wild and creative makeup and clothing. Sometimes she makes the clothing she wears. But she usually does not wear very much clothing.

Lady GaGa wrote all of the music on her album and plays some of the instruments. She says her goal as an artist is to present a pop record to the world in a very interesting way. We leave you with "Boys Boys Boys."



I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today.

It was written by Dana Demange, Caty Weaver, and Mario Ritter, who also was the producer. You can find transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our programs at

Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA's radio magazine in Special English.