Timeline is a visual journey through the ages from the Big Bang to the present day. Every page brims with detail about periods of time and events that have marked our world history.
This picture book is huge in every way. It’s way bigger and heavier than most picture books I have seen and, with 80 pages of content, much longer too. The illustrations are vast, often spanning a double-page spread and the level of detail is extraordinary. Let’s take the spread on Ancient Greece, for example. There are soldiers, ships, athletes, actors, pottery, flying mythical beasts, the Parthenon temple, the Trojan horse … and much more. The two pages are an intricate montage of ancient Greek history, accompanied by a brief text overview of the period and short captions, such as “Archimedes was one of the greatest ever mathematicians.”
A broad selection of significant world events and eras are featured in the book, all beautifully packaged and presented: the end of the dinosaurs, China’s Ming Dynasty, the Incas and Aztecs, space travel, WW2. As we approach the present day, time periods are more heavily documented; each decade from 1960 to 2010 has its own double-page spread. My recommendation: Go slow! This is not a picture book that you can read from cover to cover in one sitting. It is one of those books you keep in a special place on your bookshelf and dip into every now and again. Is your child doing a project on dinosaurs at school? Great! Then check out the double spreads on “The dinosaurs” and “The end of the dinosaurs.” Are you stuck for facts about WW1? The potted history on the relevant double spread will soon fill you in, or provide pointers for further research and discovery.
The book cover showcases the illustrative style that features throughout Timeline. A swathe of black ribbon – a river of time – is set against a dark pastel background, with brighter hues picking out certain features to add colour and contrast. There is action and interest on every page both in the overall montages and the individual scenes detailed within them. It’s worth taking the time to enjoy each double spread; there is so much to see and learn.
Timeline is not an inexhaustible resource, however. Despite its huge scope, you won’t necessarily find everything you are looking for within its pages. Australian history, for example, only gets a few brief mentions, and readers from other countries may find their story to be under-represented too. This is not a criticism, or a surprise; I simply think much of the book has a distinct European flavour and is more skewed towards a European readership.
I am proud to have a copy on my bookshelf and look forward to spending many happy hours exploring its pages. Timeline is an exceptional and ambitious book that portrays the sheer vastness of world history.
Timeline by Peter Goes (author/illustrator) and Sylvia Vanden Heeder (author), translated by Bill Nagelkerke (Gecko Press, 2015)
Original title (Dutch): Tidlijn (Uitgeverij Lannoo nv., 2015)
Peter Goes (author and illustrator) is a freelance illustrator and animator. He studied Animation at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent (Belgium), the city where he was born and raised. He spends his time “drawing, painting, doodling … from the heart.” His picture book Timeline has been published in multiple languages around the world.
Sylvia Vanden Heede (author) was born in Belgium. She is an award-winning author of children’s books.
Bill Nagelkerke is a children’s writer, translator and former librarian based in Christchurch, New Zealand. He has published a wealth of titles for children, written for television programmes such as Playschool, and his stories, poems and plays have appeared in a range of New Zealand anthologies. He has translated many books from Dutch into English.
You can get a sense of Timeline’s scope in the book trailer (in Dutch).