Saturday, July 6, 2019

Review - It Started with a Big Bang: The Origin of Earth, You and Everything Else

It Started with a Big Bang: The Origin of Earth, You and Everything Else
by Floor Bal
illustrated by Sebastiaan Van Doninck
Date: 2018
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book non-fiction
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

In this accessible informational picture book, young readers can follow the fascinating story of how we got from the very beginning of the universe to life today on the "bright blue ball floating in space" called Earth.

They'll learn about the big bang theory, how our solar system was formed, how life on Earth began in the oceans and moved to land, what happened to the dinosaurs and how humans evolved from apes to explore and build communities all over the planet ... and even travel to space. It's an out-of-this-world look at the beginning of everything!

Science journalist Floor Bal and award-winning illustrator Sebastiaan Van Doninck have combined their talents to create a captivating, kid-friendly introduction to the history of the universe and life on Earth. The spirited narrative and vibrant illustrations make millions of years of history entertaining, and give this book read-aloud appeal.

It has direct STEAM curriculum applications for grades one to three in life science, particularly for topics such as the characteristics of living things, how living things adapt to their environments and extinction, as well as earth science and space science. It also could spark deeper conversations with children as it answers some of the biggest questions humans have ever asked - such as how the universe began and where we all came from.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

At first, I thought this was pretty good. But as it went on, and started to skip over more and more with huge time jumps, I started to get confused. This isn't really a story of the Big Bang; it's a story of how humans came to be, and as such, the focus is all fairly local.

The first issue I had was on around the fifth page, after the Big Bang when the universe starts to "fill up". There's no explanation of how that happens. Stuff just suddenly exists. And then on the next page, the book talks about our sun, but simply refers to it as "the sun", as if it's the only one in existence. Only Earth's formation is covered; you wouldn't know there are other planets in our solar system.

Things just get worse from there. While evolution is explained, there are huge time jumps involved. We go from sea creatures venturing onto land for the first time to dinosaurs everywhere a page later. After the extinction event, the book does mention that millions of years later the apes (our ancestors) showed up. As I said before, this is really a book about us, not the Big Bang or even the evolution of Earth. What happened in those millions of years? No idea. The book doesn't tell us.

The apes eventually become humans because they eat cooked meat and use tools (which is kind of a weak explanation; crows pull half-eaten hamburgers out of trash cans and use tools, but they're not winning any Nobel Prizes). The humans make art, and then they become civilized. Everything they do is painted in a positive light, and while talking about the mess we've made of the planet may be beyond the scope of this book, I'm disappointed that our impact on the planet (especially in the last hundred years or so) isn't even mentioned.

The pictures are fine in some places, but I don't know how accurate they all are. When I see an astronaut tethered to a satellite that looks like Sputnik, I have to question the accuracy of the rest of the illustrations.

This is just okay. You can probably get almost as much factual information from the theme song of The Big Bang Theory, though. At least that has a catchy tune.

Thank you to NetGalley and Kids Can Press for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 3/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 2/5
Illustrations: 2/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.33 out of 5

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