/*Starred Review*/ Gr. 4-8. Dino fanatics who grab this for the menacing T. rex on its cover will come away with a broader view of Earth's prehistory than is normally transmitted by movies like Jurassic Park. Part of the new Voyages through Time series, this careful but lively exploration of life on earth (beginning with the primordial soup and ending with the appearance of Cro-Magnons) contextualizes dinosaurs--and humans--within mind-boggling expanses of time and change. Ackroyd, a two-time winner of the U.K.'s Whitbread Award, belies his roots in the adult literary world with an immense vocabulary and tendency to wax poetic (the "endless night of extinction"), but his yen for metaphor works well when applied to extinct critters; trivia-mongers will relish imagining Pliocene "armadillos as long as limousines." Digitally rendered images of creatures are eye-poppingly realistic, and the cloudier aspects of Ackroyd's narration come clear with the aid of sidebars, helpful time lines, and appendixes. An indispensable resource for budding evolutionary biologists, as well as any earthling looking for a dose of perspective on our place in the universe. ((Reviewed December 15, 2003)) Copyright 2003 Booklist ReviewsReview by Publishers Weekly Reviews
In his first book for children, Ackroyd (London: The Biography) brings a literary flair to the information-packed debut of his Voyages Through Time series, the first of 10 books planned. He opens with, "The Earth came out of fire. The Earth was fire. That fire still burns at the center of our world, to remind us of the beginning," introducing the Big Bang "some 14 billion years ago" (concluding a fact-filled description of the formation of hydrogen and helium, and their contraction into galaxies, he echoes biblical language, "Darkness gave birth to light"). Whether describing the cataclysmic cycles of growth and destruction over the epochs (a total of 54 "extinction events" in the last 500 million years) or the fascinating research into human ancestors, Ackroyd draws on up-to-date scientific discoveries and theories. A timeline at the beginning of each chapter helps pinpoint the era under discussion, and an information-rich yet crisp visual design serves the material well. The book offers a stylish blend of photographs, full-color illustrations, computer-generated representations, maps, timelines, fact-packed sidebars and the like, which, together with clever chapter titles ("Monkey Business"; "Of Ice and Men"), amplify the allure of Ackroyd's highly readable prose. Ages 8-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.Review by School Library Journal Reviews
Gr 7 Up-Ackroyd traces the history of life on Earth from the big bang to the emergence of Homo sapiens. Chapters are divided to reflect major eons, eras, periods, and epochs within this vast time span. While the author does not shy away from technical terms, the story of evolution is simply and beautifully laid out. The engaging text reflects the most recent research on prehistoric life-many species of dinosaur are depicted with feathers, and illustrations alternate between the traditional camouflage coloring historically thought to characterize dinosaur appearance and the brighter coloration now believed to have been part of mating rituals and other displays. Discussions involving speculation are clearly noted, and Ackroyd often offers alternate theories after stating the most accepted scientific belief. Informative sidebars and captions are succinct yet expand upon a point in the main text. Eye-catching, relevant illustrations bring the prehistoric world to life. Reference pages with extensive time lines follow the body of the book. An excellent glossary and index are included. Unfortunately, the author includes no source notes or a bibliography. Most material on this topic is geared to a younger or academic audience, so this title is still worthy of purchase.-Courtney Lewis, Wyoming Seminary Preparatory School, Kingston, PA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Traces the history of life on Earth from the origins of the planet, through the development and extinction of a variety of life forms, to the end of the latest Ice Age and the appearance of modern humans.