Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Larry Gonick's Cartoon History series (Review)

Citizen’s Grade: Awesome.

I found it nearly impossible to review just one of Larry Gonick’s Cartoon History of the …… without connecting it to the rest. So I’m putting together the entire series into one review….

It starts in The Cartoon History of the Universe vol. 1 at the dawn of time, it continues through the dinosaurs to the dawn of man, then to the beginning of recorded history. The beginnings aside (mostly speculation based on science and discoveries, evolution….which by the way makes it very difficult to recommend this to Christian friends), once you get into recorded history this becomes the best historical book for adults or kids ever created.

The C.H. of the Universe volumes 1-3 (volume 3 won the 2003 Harvey Award for best graphic album, original work)takes you from Sumerian civilization (around 3300 b.c.) to Columbus’s “discovery” of America in 1492. The Cartoon History of the Modern World vol. 1-2 takes you from 1492 (and a little pre-1492 history in the Americas) to 2003. The Cartoon History of The United States follows the specific history of the creation of our nation to Bush Sr.’s administration.

I am a history buff, and what I love most about this series is the amount of information I never knew before. Gonick often has great insights into strange yet historical events that took place that I’ve never seen anywhere but his books. Things the History Channel, College classes, and books (without pictures) don’t mention, or do just in passing. For instance, one of Egypt’s first Pharaohs ( a woman) coming to court topless, with goat hair for a man’s beard. Or, Quetzalcoatl asking that the butterflies be sacrificed to the gods rather than humans in the Americas.

Larry Gonick flows from continent to continent, dynasty to dynasty, time-period to time-period with a flow and ease only a master of history could. I absolutely learned more from this series than I did in all my high school, and college classes combined! Why this isn’t required for schools, I don’t know (probably middle school would be best!).

Overall, a great read with comic art and wonderful insights, Creator-Writer-Artist Larry Gonick has made the ultimate history guide for the Geek!!

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