Timeline by Peter Goes

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Timeline by Peter Goes

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Category: Children's Non-Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: How can a history book for school libraries remind me of a stout advert? A strong visual identity is not the only thing they share.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 80 Date: November 2015
Publisher: Gecko Press
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781776570690

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Tick followed tock followed tick followed tock. Once, that is, we'd got over the Big Bang, which of course was silent. We flash forwards a few billion years to the creation of the earth, have a quick look at prehistory, then it's in with the world's happenings we can be sure of and date accurately. This book makes an attempt at conveying it all along one river of time – albeit with many tributaries – and with a strong visual style points us to all that is important about our past along the way. Flick through it backwards and you can recreate a different Guinness advert to the one I quoted – but it's probably worth a much longer look.

In fact the pages are designed to pore over at length. Even when not too much happens the pages are littered with people, animals and different situations here and there, for you to examine. This book isn't so much about the characters of history, however, but the general flow of humanity – the end of the Incan empire has no representation of Pizarro, rather his boat. That, the Incas, is one of the few subjects to get one page rather than a double-page spread, and considering this is one of the most jumbo formats I've ever reviewed, if not the biggest, you can begin to fathom the scope of things.

Perhaps, then, the book's creator should have approached things a little differently, for even with this level of decoration some spaces do seem to be wasted. Don't get me wrong, you certainly get to learn (or revise) a lot; every spread, in its own dark pastel shade, has a one-paragraph introduction regarding all the salient points, then it's on to the captions surrounding what particular islands history has put into the river of life (or rivers, in the Mesopotamian times). Some of those captions are certainly not in chronological order, even if the main subjects generally are, which might challenge understanding at times. Some of them are quite hard to actually spot. Some are just too blunt – the words crannogs were artificial islands in Scotland are left with no explanation, and for me will remain solely in the context of the artwork here, rather than any narrative.

What I think the book does most successfully, however, is act as a primer. See the huge spread with the artwork regarding, say, the 14th Century, or Ancient Egypt, or even those long-distant days of the 1980s, and then zoom in to see real people with real lives and real business, even if they have no real name or popular story. See up to a dozen little sentences regarding the time period, and take that away to expand your knowledge elsewhere. Then see the following page take a similar format, with the river of time expanding and contracting so the banks have the same breadth every time you turn a sheet over. It is a book that will draw the eye and the attention most brilliantly, pulling your focus into one subject at a time even when showing them all to be linked. It might well need a parent or teacher to get the full gist of each page across (especially with a marked bias towards Belgian history, courtesy of the Dutch origin of this book), but with the novel, stylised and dramatic artwork and a paucity of words, this could be the approach to make a little historian. Then they too can sail upstream in the river of time and look at what made us who we are today.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

Diary of a Time Traveller by David Long and Nicholas Stevenson has almost the same approach, built around a narrative of a school child going back to be present at all the world's turning points and civilisations.

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Buy Timeline by Peter Goes at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Timeline by Peter Goes at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Timeline by Peter Goes at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Timeline by Peter Goes at Amazon.com.


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