Monday, May 9, 2016

Copyright 2015 -Really!

I really, really wanted to give Timeline: a visual history of our world by Peter Goes a rave review.

It was going to include: “fantastic graphics”, “wonderful design”, “beautifully produced” and “interesting if random selection of facts”.  I particularly liked the black band that runs across the middle of every page where all the events take place. It conveys the fluidity of time and how time periods merge and evolve.  It starts with the big bang, covering the beginning of life on earth, the age of dinosaurs, early hominids, early civilizations mostly in Europe and central Asia moving through the centuries up until the 2010s. (Whew! It’s quite a ride.)

And all of these observations are still valid.

It is an oversized, beautifully produced and designed book. I love the illustrations.  This is a great book for browsing. There’s lots to look at and minimal text.  It is fun to find small comical drawings (look for Big Foot in northern Canada), but --


I was kind of willing to overlook how the perspective was predominantly Euro-centric  until I noticed a couple of graphics portraying the aboriginal peoples in North America.


I’m having a problem with the images selected for the pages Explorers from All Periods and North America in the 18th Century. The images in the Explorers panel places a tepee, a seated Native with a feathered headdress, smoking a pipe, a woman with a baby strapped to her back and a totem pole all placed smack dab in the middle of the United States. The images in the 18th Century panels show several tepees and almost every single Native sports a feather in their hair. And again a totem pole is placed next to the teepees and herd of buffalo. Problematic, anyone?

I realize that any timeline that undertakes representing the history of the world in 73 pages is huge. This means that not all significant events will make the cut. It also means the illustrator will want high recognition factor from the images so that text is minimal and space is maximized. I would agree that these images are very recognizable but totem poles were not part of the indigenous cultures located on the plains of America. There were carved by the peoples living along the northwest coast of North America. The feathered-headdress, peace-pipe smoking Indian is such an overused stereotype and cannot represent the all North American indigenous peoples.  In a word, inappropriate.

This is my main beef with this book.  I know my perspective is based on becoming very aware of how indigenous peoples have been, and sometimes, still are depicted in children’s literature.

I’m not recommending this book outright but I’m not condemning it totally either.  I do think it could be useful in classrooms with careful teaching. Discussing what these images represent, how they are misleading and why other choices would have been better, becomes an opportunity to talk about stereotypes.

I think the best way this book can be used in a classroom is by looking at what constitutes a timeline, the significant events that were selected for their defined time periods, what they included (the first James Bond movie) and excluded (Arab Spring) and have students research their importance or perhaps figure out what events they would include, as well.  I think grades 6 and up may find this book useful.


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