I was searching for a really good book about dinosaurs for my almost 4 year old daughter who has just developed an interest in prehistoric creatures, when I stumbled onto this book.
We own other titles by Burton, The Little House, Katy and the Big Snow, and Calico the Wonder Horse, and love them all. But I think this book is the best. Why? Because, for my daughter, who demands daily readings, it has cracked the world of science wide open, spurring question after question about everything from meteors to the different types of rock, volcanoes, weather, the solar system, and on and on. Using the format of an engaging story, Burton has managed to touch on each of these subjects, and more, and pack so much information into a mere 80-pages. But it's not just rote information, it is a story, it is a play, and it is presented in such an entertaining way that it paves the path for a young child begin a journey of discovery that is integral to a life-long love and understanding of natural history and of the composition of the world around them.
Burton's story begins 'eons and eons ago' when 'our sun was born.' Each page is laid out with the left side containing a one-paragraph description of the period of time being sampled. This is paired with a tri-color visual narrative of what is happening, be it a 5-sketch demonstration of lava erupting from the Earth's core or the evolutionary progression of invertebrate organisms, plants, or animals. The drawings create almost a (slow) motion picture to accompany the words. The left page is dedicated to a full-color scene, set behind a stage, complete with drawn-aside red velvet curtain, and a curious little man examining the different goings-on. He, too, becomes more modern as the story progresses.
Something that I love about the format of this book is that the book begins by capturing snapshots of different periods of time that are very far apart; the first two documented time periods are 560,000,000 years apart. Mid-way through the book, the scenes are only 3,200,000 apart, and finally, by the end of the book, time slows down to 100 years, then 25, then 15, then each of the four seasons, then it is slowed to days, hours, and finally the final dark minutes before the sun rises and a new dawn is upon us. Early on, as time slows, Burton introduces her family into the story, and you find that this is her life story. On the final pages, as the story she has to tell draws to a close, Burton turns the story over to you, the reader, because it is your life story too. That last poetic touch is so beautiful, so perfect, that it leaves me in awe of the woman who wrote this book.
I don't think that this book could have been written, presented, and illustrated better. Every part just 'fits.' The ending, I believe in time, will help my child to understand where she fits into this story, and perhaps she, as I do, will feel that warm swell of love toward our home, our Earth, and all the life that has walked upon it, and gratitude that she has a place among such a brilliant history.