Usborne Fold-Out Timeline Books

Dino Dad double feature! Today I’m going to take a look at two books at once: the Fold-Out Planet Earth Timeline and the Fold-Out Dinosaur Timeline. While they can’t quite match the mind-bending scale of the last timeline book I reviewed, ClĂ©mence Dupont‘s A Brief History of Life on Earth, these two have plenty to offer in their own right.

Side-by-side comparison of the Planet Earth Timeline (top) and the Dinosaur Timeline (bottom), specifically their more “artsy” sides.

Published by Usborne, Rachel Firth authored both books. Of particular interest to me, James Gilleard, whose vector illustrations elevated Anne Rooney’s Dinosaur Atlas, illustrated this dinosaur book too, though the Earth book employs Daniel Long as its illustrator instead. Like A Brief History of Life on Earth, these timelines are double-sided: one displays its subjects with more of a focus on making aesthetically pleasing prehistoric scenes, while the other focuses on depicting the internal divisions of time proportionally to each other, with more isolated illustrations peppering this side for emphasis. The proportional side is more chart-like, and provides the most written information of the two sides in each book.

Same comparison as before, but showing their more technical sides, which provide most of the written information, as well as focusing on keeping the timelines proportional to their internal divisions.

The differences between front and back are more pronounced in the Dinosaur Timeline than the Earth Timeline, as Gilleard evidently wanted to maximize the number of dinosaurs he got to draw. So, while a few species appear on each side to help orient the reader, there are more dinosaur illustrations that are unique one side or the other. However, the chart side does include brackets denoting the timeframe in which every species depicted (from both halves of the book) lived in history.

Pics showing comparable portions of the Dinosaur Timeline‘s Jurassic Period illustrations. Note how Diplodocus appears in both frames, but numerous other species only show up on either the front or back.

While, as I previously implied, the two sides of the Earth Timeline book appear more similar to each other at first glance than in the dinosaur one, the same general differences apply. The one side focuses more on artistic expression, while the other gets more technical.

The Earth Timeline includes a bit of the history of the greater universe, but condenses it down to a single page.

It’s particularly fascinating reading these two books side-by-side, as the long reign of the dinosaurs seems plenty impressive when viewed in isolation, and yet the Mesozoic Era ultimately takes up such a small (and relatively recent) portion of the Earth’s history, they practically feel like spring chickens rather than prehistoric beasts. This is present somewhat in The Nature Timeline Wallbook as well, but it is not as strictly proportional, and so the effect is not as great as it is here. (EDIT: I had nearly hit “publish” on this review when I realized that the Earth book’s technical side doesn’t actually keep the same scale of time all the way through. While I immediately noticed that the intervals increase in length after the formation of the Earth, I almost missed that they do so again when we get to the Phanerozoic Eon, and again when we get to the Cenozoic Era. They still keep a consistent scale within these frames, however.)

The scope of the Earth Timeline is such that the entire time span depicted in the Dinosaur Timeline doesn’t even take up a single page on its technical chart side!

I am very pleased with these two books. They present an admirable amount of information into books that fold up into a nice, convenient size, and are pleasantly designed overall. I noticed no major errors, and James Gilleard‘s dinosaurs retain that same sense of “accurate caricature” that they had in Dinosaur Atlas. If you would like to compare these two books to some similar options, check out my reviews of A Brief History of Life on Earth & The Nature Timeline Wallbook, as well as the more tightly focused books Bugs! Explorer, Mammals! Explorer, & Plants! Explorer. Back to the topic at hand, though, I highly recommend both the Fold-Out Planet Earth Timeline and the Fold-Out Dinosaur Timeline. Each of them has earned my enthusiastic Dino Dad Stomp of Approval!

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