Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years

Illustrated by David Litchfield

“You can call me Planet Awesome.”

Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years is the first in a series of seven (to date) books about the solar system that also includes titles about the sun, the moon, Mars, and Pluto. Casting the planet as an anthropomorphized narrator, McAnulty has Earth tell its own story. First, Earth takes readers on a journey through the solar system, introducing them to its planetary “siblings” and it’s “best friend” the moon. Then the planet cracks open its celestial photo album, chronicling its transition from its explosive formative years, through its “soggy” stage with “no plants or animals,” to its current form as “Planet Awesome.” Along the way, Earth talks of its inhabitants, historical to modern, from dinosaurs to wooly mammoths, honeybees to humans. McAnulty’s tone throughout the book is one of celebration for Earth and all of the life it holds – especially humanity. “Humans have been super fun,” Earth says, underscoring a hopefulmessage about humanity’s place in its adventure. “No other species has ever been interested in learning about me. Other animals are nice. But they mostly eat and poop and never wonder about my amazing life.” The story isn’t all roses: “… sometimes humans forget to share and play nice and clean up after themselves,” Earth says, captioning an illustration that depicts industrial pollution, a mountain of garbage, whaling, oil extraction, oil spills, pollution, war, logging, and other forms of ecocide. But the narrative ultimately ends on a hopeful note. “Still,” Earth says, “I bet you humans will turn out to do really great things.”

Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years engages with three concepts central to climate literacy: Earth’s aliveness (see Mother Earth, Gaia, Earth Systems, Pachamama), interconnectedness of all life, and deep time. The book’s primary focus is on the latter. As McAnulty states in the Author’s Note (drawn as a Note to Alien Visitors) she had “made every attempt to bring you an accurate, brief (and entertaining) history of planet Earth.” This is achieved largely through the choice of personification, allowing Earth to tell its own story, from being alone and sad to birthing and supporting a joyful community of life comprised of diversity of plant and animal species (see biodiversity, web of life). This story of deep time is represented not just by Earth’s memories, but is highlighted at a double page opening with time-scale ruler that visually shows the proportions between geological eras, the evolution of life, and the very recent emergence of humanity. Earth’s story is a story of change—including volcanic eruptions, ice ages, asteroids and extinction events—but it is primarily a story of stewardship of life. In the last three openings, Earth stewardship is presented as an opportunity for humans, whose creativity and care (see CLiCK) Earth sees as our best qualities. Considering the book’s intended audience is comprised largely of emerging readers, teachers can use Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years as a vehicle to broach those subjects in a brief and age-appropriate manner. Such discussions will likely need to be supported with additional texts or materials.

©2023 ClimateLit (Brandon Storlie)

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Publisher: Henry Holt and Company, 2017

Pages: 32

ISBN: 978-1250108081

Audience: Little People (4-7)

Format: Nonfiction, Picturebooks

Topics: Asteroids, Biodiversity, CLICK Framework, Climate Literacy, Deep Time, Earth Care, Earth Stewardship, Earth System, Earth's Aliveness, Ecocide, Extreme Weather Events, Gaia, Ice Ages, Industrial Pollution, Interconnectedness, Logging, Mass Extinction, Mother Earth, Oil Extraction, Oil Spills, Pachamama, Pollution, Trash, Volcanic Eruptions, War, Web of Life, Whaling