The Encyclopedia of Early Earth

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
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Epic, adventurous, romantic, fantastic graphic novel.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Kids can be encouraged to think about similarities between the creation stories in The Encyclopedia of Early Earth and those of their own culture or religion; older kids can look for parallels to classic mythologies such as Homer's Odyssey. Some aspects of daily life for people in arctic climates are realistic but should be taken with a grain of salt in this imagining of Earth's history.

Positive Messages

All the stories that the main character tells, or in some cases is told, are fables, fairy tales, or parables that can teach something about the human condition, from "true love conquers all" to "think before you speak" and everything in-between.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The storyteller is brave, resourceful, and loyal. Sibling gods Kid and Kiddo sometimes bicker but love each other and care about the world of humans and individuals who struggle. The girl from the South Pole's character isn't well developed, but she's described as clever and shown to be loyal and self-sufficient. Adults run the gamut from capricious gods to venerable elders, from egomaniacal rulers to devoted sisters.


All illustrations with violent or scary content are stylized and not gory: Blood is occasionally shown as red lines of varying widths. The aftermath of a battle shows small-scale bodies with arrows coming out of them. One depiction of monsters rising from a void are slightly scary and again highly stylized, with little detail or realism. Other instances of violence are stylized and without realism, in a fairy-tale context, such as an old lady who slays a giant and drags his severed head back to her village or a Cain-and-Abel-type depiction of the first murder. A type of animal is treated cruelly before it's eaten.


A half-dozen or so panels depict nudity, both male and female. The nudity is anatomically correct, except for the lack of pubic hair. A couple is shown kissing on the cheek, and people's desire to kiss and have children is mentioned a couple times. A couple of panels show adults lying down and embracing. The excitement of mating is mentioned via a description of an imagined bird.


"He's a p---y" is used once as name-calling.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

In one society the storyteller visits, adults drink ale at a banquet. Once the storyteller thinks he may have had too much ale. It's mentioned once that some adults like to drink and gamble. A medicine man can prepare a sacred brew that causes "out-of-body experiences."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Encyclopedia of Early Earth is a lyrical and beautifully illustrated graphic novel with many stories within the story that a wide range of kids will enjoy. Formatted as an illustrated history of advanced civilizations long before the Permian era, humans interact with monsters, gods, and each other in tales that parallel many mythologies, from Homer and the Bible to Shel Silverstein. Fairy-tale violence is occasional, highly stylized, and not gory, though it's clear what's going on (for example, an old lady dragging a giant's severed head). Several panels show both male and female nudity, which is incidental and not mentioned in the captions or narration and is anatomically correct except for the lack of pubic hair. The only crude language occurs when a man refers to his brother as a "p---y."

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What's the story?

In THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF EARLY EARTH, the hero story teller sets off on a quest to find a piece of himself he feels is missing. He travels the world and has many adventures involving kings, gods, and monsters. Along the way he both tells and hears many stories about the full range of human experience. When he arrives on the other side of the Earth, he finds his true love, but capricious god Birdman is determined to prevent the story teller's happy-ever-after.

Is it any good?

Grand in scope yet emotionally intimate, this book provides a great framework for thinking about our place in the world, the nature of love, the difference between right and wrong, and so much more. As with most great mythology, the stories are satisfying, yet leave a lot to the imagination, thanks to carefully omitted extraneous detail. Kids will root for the story teller, recognize themselves in Kid and Kiddo, and enjoy exploring the vivid details in the richly imagined early Earth history. The book stays with you long after you've finished and is a joy and a pleasure to revisit time and time again.

Isabel Greenberg's refreshing, modern, yet familiar illustration style shows hints of influence ranging from Samurai Jack and Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends to Lynda Barry, all of which come together in a unique and captivating way.
The muted pen-and-ink palette is ably punctuated with primary colors that enhance and impact. Greenberg has a keen eye that conveys both the epic and the intimate with charm and wit. The writing underscores, enhances, and sometimes even undercuts the illustration to great effect. It adds a lot of humor, makes the characters relatable, and has a great rhythm and tone for reading aloud.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how some of the stories resemble biblical or mythical stories. Which ones do you recognize? Is it OK to tell traditional or sacred stories in a different way? Why, or why not?

  • Some of the stories show violent acts. Are they important to the story, or is there another way to tell and show them? 


  • Do you like the illustrations? How well do the pictures and words go together? Which is more important, or are they both important, to telling the story? Why?

Book details

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For kids who love graphic novels and coming-of-age stories

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