The Long Path of History

This this thin sliver of an illustration (above) represents the first draft of Larry Gets Lost in History. But before discussing that, a little history.

While researching Larry Gets Lost in the Twin Cities I found a beautiful book called Along a Long Road by Frank Viva. Not only were the illustrations terrific, but my mind was completely blown by this fine print in the front matter:

“This book was created as a continuous 35-foot-long piece of art using Adobe Illustrator.”

I became obsessed with finding an excuse to do a continuous-illustration Larry book. Right about this time Random House suggested a book, Larry Gets Lost in Time. Suddenly it all clicked: I would do a continuous-illustration timeline of world history from the Mesozoic to modern day in 30 pages! (Big Bang to the Paleozoic omitted for brevity.)

The History Channel’s “History of the World in Two Hours” was a great resource as well as E.H. Gombrich’s wonderful book A Little History of the World.

There were a few bumps in the universal timeline concept. In early human history, prior to trans-oceanic travel, discoveries and innovations like agriculture, architecture, metallurgy happened independently at different times. Then, beginning with the Industrial Revolution, things began happening so quickly it was hard to know what to show. My editor had no idea what to make of the concept so I had to sketch out the whole book on spec to prove it could work.

When finished I was teamed up with Andrew, my co-writer on this book. He is also an elementary school teacher and he diplomatically informed me that I’d lost my mind. The scope of the book was too vast. Thus, the continuous-illustration Epic Larry World History book was lost to history.

The manuscript for Larry Gets Lost in History: From Dinosaurs to the Stone Age has been delivered in its new, more modest form (Mesozoic to Cenozoic). While researching it I discovered this wonderful book. Life Story by Virginia Lee Burton, the author-illustrator of The Little House and Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel (one of my favorites).

Even though her target audience is older than mine and she took 70 pages instead of 30, Life Story spectacularly accomplished what I couldn’t and was even more ambitious. Just this endpaper has more information contained in it than my entire book. The level of research is amazing. Its telescoping of space and time reminds me a bit of Charles and Ray Eames’ film Powers of Ten.

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