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The History of the World in Comics

Holiday House. Dec. 2020. 80p. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9780823445783.
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Gr 3-8–Are you prepared for 4.6 billion years of history in one comic book? In this Belgian import, a brown-skinned female paleontologist, a white male storyteller, and two inquisitive kids (a brown-skinned boy and a white girl) invite readers to join them on an exciting narrative journey through the life and times of our blue planet, from its birth to its imagined future and everything in between. The focus is mainly on life forms and their evolution, connecting changes in climate and habitat to natural selection and evolution. Each page is helpfully labeled at the top, with a title declaring a unified theme and a time period. The color of the bar changes to indicate a shift in time or subject, advancing in a relatively chronological fashion. Most featured creatures are labeled with their names; information such as their height or length (in feet and meters) or how long ago they lived is provided. Supporting back matter includes a geologic time scale, a glossary, and a thorough index. This is a satisfyingly detailed romp, with plenty of minutiae for those who demand it, but broad enough for pleasure reading. The density of the material is tempered by Barman’s detailed but peppy color-saturated cartoons. While the illustrations are enlightening, the mood is kept lively by the narrators’ face-clutching, arm-waving enthusiasm for their subject and the ancient creatures’ irreverently goofy expressions. The narrators and early humans are depicted in a variety of skin tones. This title lends itself particularly to subject requests for evolution, dinosaurs, early mammals, and early humans and offers fascinating perspectives on climate change.
VERDICT Young naturalists seeking a deep dive similar to Joanna Cole’s “Magic School Bus” series will be delighted by this treasure trove of content.

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