The Greatest Show on Earth

The Greatest Show on Earth

By Author / Illustrator

Mini Grey


Non Fiction

Age range(s)



Penguin Random House Children's UK








Here we are at 4.6 billion years ago, and as we raise the curtain . . . the STORY OF LIFE is about to begin! (Yes, that's right - we're telling the story of the ENTIRE history of Planet Earth).

Take your seats for the ENTIRE history of Planet Earth, as we take a whistle-stop tour from the birth of Earth, to the age of bacteria, the era of dinosaurs . . . to the moment of people (blink and you'll miss it).  Narrated by a friendly troop of insects and with mind-blowing, lively illustrations, this illustrated non-fiction book will entertain and educate, as we put on a show, the greatest show, the show of the evolution of life on Earth.  From internationally bestselling creator, Mini Grey, winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal, this is her first non-fiction book and it's told with wit, humour and heart.

"In the running for the greatest children's picture book about Earth . . . Grey's jokes and wild imagination elevate this far above the many non-fiction science titles for children" - THE TIMES.  "Rarely has an encyclopaedia looked so entertaining" - THE SUNDAY TIMES.  



Already a fan of Mini Grey's picture book, I was hooked the moment I saw the cover of this gorgeous, informative non-fiction picture book. Where to start? Well, the eye-catching cover that shares the start of our journey into the '4.6 billion year story of life on our planet'; for this is a story that is told by insects via a cut-up encyclopaedia and a completely delightful 'shoebox theatre'. What a wonderful idea for making this hugely important story engaging and accessible to younger children!

Through each spread, we learn about the main points in the development of life on Earth, from the moment of the Earth's birth to when bacteria first formed, what happened during the era of dinosaurs, how mammals first developed and, finally and oh so briefly, the arrival of humans on Earth.

Told in bite-size pieces of information and with the glorious showmanship of the insect theatre, this is an engaging, eye-catching non-fiction book. The author doesn't try to tell us everything, but within the overarching narrative there are wonderful snippits of information such as what survived the Permian mass extinction, the fact that the age of the dinosaurs lasted for over 100 million years, and what gave rise to mammals; lots of starting points for further research.

All the while, along the bottom of each spread the ant characters - with the help of a very long tape measure - show us the timelines for life on Earth with key points in time, reminders of where the story has reached in the planet's history - and just how briefly humans have been part of it.

I love the scrapbook nature of the illustrations, also by Mini Grey - as well as helping tell the story and providing additional insights and humour, they also give a great starting point for getting children to make their own 'shoebox' of a moment in Earth's history and I can see some lovely potential for displays here.

While the presentation of the book makes it suitable for readers aged seven years upwards, there is also a lot of more detailed information within the text and timelines, as well as some demanding vocabulary and names, that will take it further up the age range.  An excellent, inspiring resource!

48 pages / Reviewed by Elen Green

Suggested Reading Age 7+


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