A Brief History of Life on Earth – Children’s Book Recommendation

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Title: A Brief History of Life on Earth

Author & illustrator: Clémence DupontI

 Publisher: Prestel Verlag, 2019 (French edition, l’Agrume, 2017)

Translated from French by: Paul Kelly

Ages: 5-11

Themes: history of the earth, hadean age, archean age, proterozoic, phanerzoic age, eons


We’ve travelled back about 4.6 billion years before the present day. The earth is very young and extremely hot. All around us is an ocean of magma – the boiling, fluid rock that we can still see today as lava. The atmosphere is dense, almost yellowish, and a continuous burst of meteorites bombards the planet. Welcome to hell! This is the first eon (geological time) of Earth’s history, and it is aptly named after Hades, the god of the underworld. Millions of years go by and the Earth starts to stabilize and cool down. It is covered by water., with the first oceans appearing. They occupy almost the entire globe. The moon can also be seen, but it is much closer to Earth than nowadays. So close, in fact, that its gravity causes enormous tides that make the entire planet appear to swell.


The story of life on earth unfolds in dramatic fashion in this amazing picture book that takes readers from 4.6 billion years ago to the present day.

It’s difficult to grasp the enormous changes life on Earth has undergone since it first came into existence, but this marvelously illustrated book makes learning about our planet’s fascinating history easy and entertaining. In an accordion style, the series of pages take readers through every major geological period, with bright artwork and detailed drawings. Opening on lava-filled oceans and smoking volcanoes, the book unfolds, era by era, to show how life evolved from tiny protozoa and crustaceans to dinosaurs and mammals. Fully expanded to 8 meters (26 feet), this spectacular visual timeline is a very impressive panorama that reveals evolution in all its glory. Each page is brimming with illustrations that readers will turn to again and again. A celebration of life, this extraordinary and beautiful book illuminates the history of Earth for young readers in an unforgettable and delightful way.

Why I like this book:

I think I am going to have to catalog this one as reference in the school library as I know so many of my upper elementary and middle school students are going to want to pore over it. The huge unfolding format is so visually effective and the card used appears sturdy, but I do want to keep an eye on it. The text is beautiful narrative nonfiction and reading this science and history is a pleasure. It offers a terrific visual of how recent and small homo sapien’s history is.

Using the same color palate throughout, but adding to the detail and complexity of life forms is visually compelling. As an anthropologist, I have studied all these eons but this presentation was so much more enticing than any of my old text books. I would honestly happily use this in a high school anthropology class.

By the way, the book folds out the length of a triceratops, how cool is that?

I would pair this with two more picture books I have reviewed over the past couple of months: One Iguana Two Iguanas and The Stuff of Stars.

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2 Responses to A Brief History of Life on Earth – Children’s Book Recommendation

  1. Patricia Nozell says:

    This looks like a fascinating, and gorgeous, new picture book. I love how the format helps history unfold.

  2. Joanna says:

    The format is amazeballs. I am surprised it isn’t more expensive. And so many great details.

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