Earth is Big: A Book of Comparisons by Steve Tomecek, illustrated by Marcos Farina

Earth is Big: A Book of Comparisons by Steve Tomecek, illustrated by Marcos Farina, What On Earth Books, 9781912920341, 2021 

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Nonfiction, science

What did you like about the book?  This oversized and slightly overstuffed, slim reference book explores the concept of absolutes as they pertain to our planet Earth. Is the Earth big or small? It’s bigger than the inner planets, but smaller than most of the outer ones. We think of it as round, but it’s actually quite jagged. Sometimes it changes slowly  (plate tectonics) and other times we see sudden change (earthquakes, moon phases). Each two page-spread compares and contrasts seemingly opposite pronouncements, using concrete examples and colorful, stylish (and stylized) illustrations. Under “Earth is fast” the reader will learn about the Earth’s orbital speed compared to the Moon and Pluto while also being able to explore a chart of relative speeds on Earth, from the putzy snail (.03 mph) to an X-15 rocket plane (4,520 mph). Then on the next page, we see that Earth’s speed is slow when compared to the speed of light, solar wind, or protons in the Large Hadron Collider. The prose is sturdy and readable, rendered in a very small sans serif font with blockier text for headings. Support material includes a discussion of measurement systems and how to convert them, a table of contents, a glossary, an index and source notes. 

Anything you didn’t like about it? For me, the amount of information on each page was overwhelming and didn’t always directly relate to the topic. Under “Earth changes quickly”, we can read about human growth and butterflies but those topics aren’t about Earth per se. More interesting and relevant was information about tides, air pressure, and volcanos. “Earth is round” digresses into the shapes of various sports balls. Overall, the book was at its most interesting when it stayed focused on geology and astronomy. 

To whom would you recommend this book?  This book would appeal to readers who love almanacs and Guinness World Records-types compendiums. Although I really liked the look of the graphics, they do look a bit young for the content, so for reading, I’d say grades 3-6. Younger children would need an adult reader to help them decode the text.

Who should buy this book? Elementary and public libraries

Where would you shelve it? In the old days, this book might have gone into a reference section. With most children’s libraries phasing out reference, I guess 550 for Earth Science?

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: July 7, 2021

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