A Brief History of Life on Earth

Image of A Brief History of Life on Earth
Release Date: 
April 8, 2019
Reviewed by: 

“Clear descriptions and beautiful illustrations . . .”

With clear descriptions and beautiful illustrations, Clemence Dupont lays out the history of our planet from its beginnings as a boiling ocean of magma up to the present day.

Although the title calls the book A Brief History of Life on Earth, the first pages, representing billions of years, show how there was no life at all, then only simple bacteria. The format of the book is ingenious, using the accordion folds on one side to show the changes in our planet during different ages while the other side presents a timeline, making it clear at a glance how tiny our human time on Earth has been in the grand scheme of things.

And the scheme is indeed grand. The art shows massive land formations, oceans, volcanoes, forests, and ultimately a rich tapestry of animal, plant, bird, and insect life. The perspective created is vast and impressive, while the details of specific animals and plants are intriguing.

This is the kind of book young readers will pour over repeatedly, examining every inch. They'll be inspired to ask questions about dinosaurs and how changing climates meant changes in species. The book ends with the biggest question of all, “What now?” The image of a melting ice pack with smoke in the distance hints at another tectonic shift in our planet's story. The single person gives hope for humanity, but the page is open-ended, asking more than it answers.

A wonderful resource for parents and teachers, this book offers both a fascinating story and a beautiful object. Books like this, with satisfying page turns (or in this case, unfolding) exemplify exactly what the digital experience of reading lacks. You need to hold this book in your hands to experience it. Or better yet, spread it out on the floor and see just how far it will take you.