Ancestory: The Mystery and Majesty of Ancient Cave Art

HarperCollins/Clarion. Apr. 2023. 48p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780358469841.
K-Gr 4–In this informative picture book, Salyer uses brilliant images to present the “history” found in rocks and cave art, making a connection between ancient artists and creators in modern times. Due to the topic’s broad scope, Salyer asks more questions than she answers, which also reflects the mystery that still surrounds the creation of these artifacts. The outstanding features of the book are its art and powerful message. The ideas that our ancestors took time to create despite the challenges of survival they faced, and that humans’ creative drive carries on to this day, will resonate with readers. Multimedia illustrations include photographs of ceramic structures, charcoal, and digital art. The smudged images filled with shadows and silhouettes are reminiscent of cave paintings but clearly executed in a modern style. Salyer depicts realistic artifacts of rock art down to the texture. The book peaks at its double gatefold where “the figures dance, leap and run” in a cave illuminated by flame, the shape of the rock structures making the figures “seem to emerge from the wall.” The rest of the book does not rise to this level of informative detail. The back matter (map, author’s note, time line, glossary, resource list) may prove too sophisticated for the intended audience and fails to put some terms into context (the definition of “Indigenous” may confuse children).
VERDICT A lush and vibrant picture book which will leave readers wanting to know more. Supplement with additional nonfiction resources.

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