cover image We Go Way Back: A Book About Life on Earth and How It All Began

We Go Way Back: A Book About Life on Earth and How It All Began

Idan Ben-Barak, illus. by Philip Bunting. Roaring Brook, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-250-85079-9

In casual, erudite prose, Ben-Barak (There’s a Skeleton Inside You!) explains what is known about how life began. “What is life?” he starts. “You have it.... A starfish has it.... A car doesn’t have it.” A spiraling line of type provides a simple, memorable formulation: “Life Is the Way That Some Things Make More Things That Are a Lot Like Themselves but Sometimes a Little Bit Different. Sort of.” Relaying where life came from, the pages go “way back” to a young world of exploding volcanoes, flowing water, and striking lightning. Though it’s not known where or exactly how, lines clarify, elements became molecules, and molecules joined to make small bubbles. Eventually, one “very clever little bubble” was able to produce more bubbles “That Were a Lot Like Itself but Sometimes a Little Bit Different.” From there, the process complexifies for “literally billions of years,” eventually reaching the present panoply of life on Earth, shown in a family tree so large it sprawls across a gatefold spread. Bunting (Your Planet Needs You) illustrates with punchy, sign-like images that take on visual complexity as the story rolls forward. It’s an engaging, lucidly written volume that’s refreshingly open about the parts of the sequence that remain unknown. Ages 4–8. (Feb.)