Review: The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg

earthBefore our history began, another now forgotten civilization thrived. The people who roamed Early Earth were much like us: curious, emotional, funny, ambitious, and vulnerable. In this series of illustrated and linked tales, Isabel Greenberg chronicles the explorations of a young man as he paddles from his home in the North Pole to the South Pole. There, he meets his true love, but their romance is ill-fated. Early Earth’s unusual and finicky polarity means the lovers can never touch.
     As intricate and richly imagined as the work of Chris Ware, and leavened with a dry wit that rivals Kate Beaton’s in Hark! A Vagrant, Isabel Greenberg’s debut will be a welcome addition to the thriving graphic novel genre.

This is one of those rare books that really does live up to the hype surrounding it. It is both beautifully drawn and extremely well written, everything one looks for in a graphic novel.

The Encyclopedia of Early Earth is a celebration of storytelling and culture.  As the main character travels across the globe, he exchanges stories with those he meets, and learns about their culture along the way. Greenberg blends together mythology from across the world in a unique and very interesting way. First Nation creation stories, Biblical tales, and Greek legends are all a part of the rich mythology of Early Earth. The way in which these stories are combined pushes one to wonder whether they are not in fact the same stories, just told through different perspectives. But ultimately, this book is an invitation to continue to explore and be fascinated by the rich variety of stories to be found around the world.

Magic and love are also at the heart of this graphic novel, the driving forces behind the story within a story plot. It is magic that sends the storyteller off on his journey, while love bookends his adventures. Along the way, a whole cast of colourful characters are introduced and delightful stories told. Everything about this novel is highly creative and endlessly engrossing and I was hooked from page one.

Humorous and thoughtful, this novel manages to be a fun, quick read that is also captivating and inspiring. Fans of mythology and graphic novels will love this one!


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