This is the type of non-fiction book that I would have loved as a child and still adore as an adult. With its large size and sumptuously coloured pages it invites you to open it out flat on a table or on the floor and lose yourself in the detail for as long as you can spare. It is certainly a book that I can imagine returning to on multiple occasions.
The book begins by chronicling the emergence of the genus Homo from apes and the eventual dominance of Homo sapiens over the other species such as Homo neanderthalensis and Homo erectus. There is then an excellent map showing the migration of Homo sapiens from the original ancestor Mitochondrial Eve’s birthplace in or near Ethiopia approximately 150,000 years ago. Then the continents are explored one at a time, with their main civilisations and the contributions that these humans made, presented in detail. A feature which I greatly appreciated was the “Where in the World” inset on most pages reinforcing the understanding that similar advancements were being made in different parts of the globe at similar times whilst also making you realise how geography contributed to certain developments.
Small blocks of text and large, bold headings are complemented perfectly by beautifully detailed artwork, enabling reading for information as well as for pleasure. This book covers many of the topics included in the primary school history curriculum as well as many that are not. In my opinion this is what is so special about “The Humans”, it covers many ancient civilisations that are not usually taught in schools and thus helps to put different historical periods into context, aiding the reader’s understanding of the global development of humans. To give one example of this, I was astounded to find a double-page spread on the Micronesians and Melanesians containing information on the design of their sailing vessels and the many languages and cultures found on the islands. I had not heard of the term “Micronesia” until I was an adult and I heard it in an episode of The West Wing! It delights me to know that primary school children will have the opportunity to learn about the emergence of this culture.
Finally, the civilisations are organised in a timeline, which again highlights just how much of human development occurred in periods which are not explicitly taught in the UK. My overall impression of this book is perfectly summarised in the final paragraph, humans are “an intelligent and resilient bunch. We are the best problem solvers on the planet.” This book does a wonderful job of presenting the awesome achievements of humankind and I highly recommend adding it to any school or home library.
I am very grateful to Little Tiger Group for sending me a copy of The Humans in exchange for an honest review.