Monday, 29 June 2020

Absolutely Everything!: A History of Earth, Dinosaurs, Rulers, Robots and Other Things Too Numerous to Mention by Christopher Lloyd and Andy Forshaw (Non-fiction, Audiobook, 10/10E)

1st June 2020, What On Earth Books, 7hrs 30 minutes (approx) Audiobook (also in Hardback), Review copy

Summary from What On Earth Books 
From the author of the bestselling What on Earth Happened? comes a new, highly entertaining 15-chapter narrative history of the world for children and adults alike from the beginning of time to the present day.

AN ARMADILLO the size of a pick-up truck. A 4,000-year-old bowl of noodles. A legendary Chinese Empress said to have invented silk. Bees waggle dancing. Researchers figuring out how ancient Egyptian embalmers really got the brains out of dead people. An African emperor on a gold-laden pilgrimage….

T.REX, King Tut, Confucius, Cleopatra, Genghis Khan, William the Conqueror, Toussaint Louverture, the Wright Brothers, Adolf Hitler, Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks, Malala Yousafzai, Gravity, microbes, wars, epidemics, climate change, conquistadors, slavery, revolutions, religions, railways, computers, artificial intelligence… You get the idea!

Nayu's thoughts
Some of my fondest memories from my childhood were hours spent pouring over the mini range of encyclopedias I had in my home library. I loved all the pictures that accompanied the facts. Obviously an audiobook does not have pictures, but that doesn't detract from the enjoyment of Absolutely Everything! You can see the style of illustrations on the publisher's website and they are good! The narrator did an amazing job of making every single fact interesting. I knew a lot of the info, and was surprised when it poked my memories of when I first learned certain informaiton. For example in one chapter there's talk of a man buried in the ice, with no knowledge of why he as in that location. I rememer being at secondary school, around 11-13, being in history class and having my teacher talk about the famous discovery. I can even vaguely remember the page layout in the text book! I am not blessed with a photographic memory, but it is weird what I can recall from the depths of my mind. 

I feel that having this fact filled book in audiobook format will actually help children who prefer to be active rather than sitting still with a book which is what I loved as a child, to absorb the facts without realising, while being able to keep themselves busy with something else. Audiobooks are great because they can be paused at any moment, and restarted at any moment. It's possible to skip whole chapters, relisten to parts of the listener's mind was wandering. I liked how the history of the world is explored as if it were a clock, leaving our human era in the last few minutes before midnight. That is fascinating, because it's a reminder that while it seems we have been around for centuries (we have), there are millions of years where we didn't exist at all. 

Speaking frankly, even though I am very much a creationist in terms of scientific belief, and I am not ashamed of having that viewpoint, how the earth is considered to be created is explained thoroughly and scientifically. One part of the book grossed me out - I was feeling a bit under the weather at the time, and with a high imagination the enthusiasm and detail of gore at how the ancient civilisations (particularly Egypt) removed organs before embalming and buriel made me a little queasy, which is a sure sign that a lot of children will love that part for being so gross! There are plenty of cultural references which readers will find it easier to understand certain points. Honestly if this doesn't intrigue someone into learning about the hundreds of topics covered, I don't know what would. 

While this could easily stand on it's own as an audiobook, I feel that it could also be given alongside the physical copy, so that reluctant readers can read along while they listen, the pictures can be enjoyed alongside the appropriate pages, and little beats being able to flip through a non-fiction book and read whatever catch's your eye. Chapters can be hopped betwee in the audiobook version, but there are some experiences that only physical books can give. That doesn't affect how great this book is, and I really hope Christopher creates more like it, perhaps focusing deeper into particular points in history. 

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