Litton (Hello World, 2016) and Hegbrook (Storyworlds: Nature, 2016) link up for a large-format “grand pictorial tour of our humble home.”
It’s not a happy pairing. Along with a tendency to use dark background colors that render the narrative’s small type difficult to read and nearly illegible in places, the illustrator shows a general disregard for clarity. He renders the Milky Way as a blotchy abstraction, for instance, fails to produce evidence beyond the desert rose for Litton’s claim that the island of Socotra is “the most alien-looking place on Earth,” and turns an already tangled “Tree of Life” into a bewildering mess with globs of superfluous, stylized leaves. The book has other weaknesses. The gallery of “Influential Earthlings” is diverse enough to include Lucy, Laika, and Henrietta Lacks, but an earlier international “Parade of People” includes only three women among the 17 figures. The author’s overview of the Earth’s history, its biosphere’s regions and residents, and our human impact on the planet is chock-full of lively examples and sidelights, but the illustrations waste his efforts. Also, he doesn’t always get his facts right: New Zealand’s fiordland crested penguins do live in a rain forest but do not nest in trees, and Hiawatha did not “end wars across the Great Plains.” The unpaged volume has no index, and maps are rare and heavily stylized.
Ambitious of scope but a clumsy mismatch. (Nonfiction. 9-12)