cover image THE BEGINNING


Peter Ackroyd, . . DK, $19.99 (144pp) ISBN 978-0-7894-9836-6

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.)