Carried along on a broad ribbon of time that winds across oversized spreads, thousands of small images re-enact the human story.
Goes, a Belgian illustrator, begins with the Big Bang, but by the fifth spread, Lucy is peeking from behind a tree as Neanderthals stroll through a torch-lit cave. From there, each page turn offers a panoramic view of a whole civilization up through the Middle Ages, a single century from the 14th to the 19th, decades or half-decades post–World War I, and finally a glimpse of the “2010s” that ends with the Charlie Hebdo massacre. Now and then such diversions as “The Aztecs” or “Space travel” offer pauses in the march. The book is highly selective with both the hordes of stylized but recognizable artifacts and historical figures and the buckets of specific facts and dates scattered throughout. Still, the artist resorts to such extremes of compression that Native American cultures are largely distilled to a cluster of teepees around a totem pole near some buffalo, and one crowd listens to both Jimi Hendrix and “black religious leader” Martin Luther King Jr. while watching JFK motor and singing anti-war songs. It’s an ingenious use of space—but with few exceptions, the world beyond Europe and North America barely figures. The absence of an index makes this a browsing item rather than a resource.
A handsome overview, parochial for all its chronological scope. (Nonfiction. 9-12)