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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Prehistoric Life: The First Dog and The First Drawing

Researchers speculate on many aspects of early humans that we cannot know for sure. They take the available data and make educated leaps backwards to get a clearer picture of our beginnings, of what led us to where we are today.

How did the early humans forge a bond with the early wolves who were essentially feral. What prompted that first human to draw? And how did they know to even make a representation, let alone a likeness, of the world around them? The fact that someone did indeed take this radically new step is where history, as we know it, unfolds.

Here are two books by two author-illustrators I deeply respect and admire, speculating on these very ideas and presenting their thoughts in the most difficult format: Picture Books!


The First Dog
the first dog jan brett book review saffron tree crocus 2014

by Jan Brett


Interested in the history of Siberian Husky, and inspired by "Dark Caves, Bright Visions: Life in Ice Age Europe" exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History, Jan Brett authored and illustrated The First Dog to tell the story of how the bond between animal and man long ago in the Pleistocene epoch must've resulted in the domestication of dogs.

Kip, the cave boy, is on his way back to his cave home. He avoids the mighty aurochs and the cave bears, and dodges the woolly rhinos and wild horse. He still has a long way to go, and still many hurdles to safety await in his path.

Along the way, a Paleowolf follows him and stays close to him, possibly attracted by the delicious meat snack the boy is carrying. At one point, it warns him and even saves the boy from danger. And, eventually, inevitably, the boy and the wolf establish a mutually beneficial relationship.

The repetitive format for the text, the continuous movement and action, the lurking dangers and the anticipation for the end of the boy's journey all make for a wonderful read. Of course, in addition, Jan Brett's illustrations are amazing as always, a visual treat.

[image source: Jan Brett website]



The First Drawing
by Mordicai Gerstein

the first drawing mordicai gerstein book review saffron tree crocus 2014
Author's Note at the back of the book sums up the idea beautifully: "This story is my imagined version of how and why drawing was invented."

And the author adds, "... for someone who has drawn all his life, it has always seemed obvious that whoever invented drawing  must have been a child."

With playful tone, powerful words, and brilliant illustrations, the book tries to show what it must've been like for that first child who dared to draw. He sees galloping horses and elk on the cave walls by the light of the shimmering fire.

They call you "Child Who Sees What Isn't there."
How can you make them see what you see?

When the child does finally draw a woolly mammoth on the cave wall, his father aims his spear at it while the others huddle behind him, terrified. A perfectly plausible event, told ever so beautifully.

Drawing is magic - to make people see what you see in your head, even what isn't there in the real world, sometimes. And this imaginative tale captures all the magic and mystique surrounding this uniquely human endeavor.


[image source: Hachette Book Group]


[This post written especially for Saffron Tree's CROCUS 2014: Prehistoric Life and Ancient Civilization]

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