From Publishers Weekly
Beginning with the very origin of the universe, American Book Award–winning author Brown (Ready from Within: Septima Clark and the Civil Rights Movement
) shows that history is more than the written records of the gadfly species Homo sapiens
. In a multidisciplinary narrative subtly emphasizing the mutual impact of people and planet, Brown covers Earth's history from the big bang through the development of life and the growth of civilization. Nice concrete details give immediacy to the most remote events: The gold in the ring on your finder has to be more than 4.5 billion years old. Brown's story covers the globe, encompassing the Mongols and Vikings, Mayans and Aztecs, as well as the Islamic Empire and Europe. Brown looks at the gold rush that followed Columbus's American voyages and the impact of chocolate, tomatoes, potatoes, tobacco and chili peppers on European habits. In a blink the Industrial Revolution and world wars lead to the new millennium. While much of the story is familiar, Brown's writing lucidly knits each topic into a vast historical mosaic. This exciting saga crosses space and time to illustrate how humans, born of stardust, were shaped—and how they in turn shaped the world we know today. 33 b&w illus. (Sept.)
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Cynthia Brown gives us a global history, one which provides the kind of historical knowledge that all students should bring to their understanding of current happenings.
Ordinary stars turn hydrogen into helium, helium into carbon, and so on. But only supernovas can create elements beyond iron; the elements that make life on Earth possible originated in giant exploding stars. Thus, Cynthia Stokes Brown writes romantically, "we quite literally are made of stardust." Alas, romance doesn't last long in Brown's brief history of everything. The "universal ancestor" -- the first living cells on our planet -- may have been related to today's blue-green bacteria. So we are stardust, yes; but we are "pond scum," too. Not to mention farmers: The earliest crops planted in the Americas include chile peppers and pumpkins. And voyagers: The Polynesians who reached Easter Island about 1,600 years ago must have landed on American shores long before Europeans did. How else could sweet potatoes have been introduced to the Polynesian islands? There's much to argue about in Brown's account, and much to discover. (Alan Cooperman - The Washington Post
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