Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Timeline: A Visual History of Our World

Timeline: A Visual History of Our World

Peter Goes
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 10 and up
Gecko Press, 2016   ISBN: 978-1776570690

It is hard to imagine how anyone could tell the story of our planet in one book, let alone in a book that uses art to tell the story more than text. Surely such a thing is simply not possible, and yet this is exactly what Peter Goes does in this remarkable and beautiful book.

He begins at the beginning, the very beginning. Opposite the title page we encounter the big bang, an explosion of swirling reds and whites on a black background. A small amount of text briefly explains what this event was and we learn that during this “primordial explosion, time and matter were born from that tiny point.”

When we turn the page we are in an ocean full of creatures of all kinds. On the left are tiny little lifeforms, which then gave rise to trilobites, ammonites. Fish, the first animals to have backbones, came next, and from them evolved the amphibians, which thanks to their legs, were able, over time, to adapt to life on land. The decedents of these amphibians then appear on the next spread, which brings us forward in time to the age of the dinosaurs. Here we see dinosaur species of all kinds in a wild and wonderful landscape, and we read about how there was “a great diversity of dinosaurs,” which lived on Earth longer than any other family of vertebrates.

The following page presents a scene of grim change. The reign of the dinosaurs is brought to an end when, it is believed, a massive meteorite collided with the earth. Though the loss of three-quarters of the animal species on the planet was catastrophic, it did give another family of animals, the mammals, the opportunity to get a foothold on the planetary stage.

From here the story of humankind begins and we see how the first human settlements gave rise to great ancient civilizations. We visit Mesopotamia, ancient Egypt, ancient Greece, the lands of the Celts, and the Roman Empire. We learn about the Huns, a warlike group of nomadic people who greatly impacted the people’s they encountered as they swept across Europe.

As the pages in this large format book turn, the rich, annotated artwork carries readers across the world, and we see how empires rose and fell, how man advanced in some ways and then lost ground in others. It is the kind of book readers of all ages can explore for hours. The flow from page to page of color and action, people, places, and things is remarkable, and readers will certainly come back to this title again and again, as they, like our planet’s history, evolve and grow.