If you could travel backwards in time, what people, events and places would you most like to see? Such is the challenge given to the reader by this book. This approach cleverly allows Stevenson and Long to escape the straightjacket of the history timeline and avoid the ‘why wasn’t X or Y included’ standard criticism of much history publishing for children.
The book meets the conventions of a standard information text with index, list of references for further information and contents page, but is designed as a picturebook. The contents page is attention grabbing, as rather than using the usual format it mirrors instead the effect of time travel by using points on a decreasing circle or vortex to indicate topics and page numbers.
There is a narrative feel to the text with the diary of the title featuring on each double page spread taking the role of the ‘block of text’ found in most information books. The narrator, Augustus, and his history teacher are featured on every spread and while looking for them the reader is drawn to examining the illustrations and accompanying text enrichment boxes. Stevenson’s illustrations are digitally created and successfully echo the feel of each time period pictured, but the perspective is flat and the images are static; a poor reflection of the time travel motif and the idea of history as real events and people.
Whilst not the satisfying reading experience offered by the best picturebooks, this book is fun and will provide an enjoyable challenge for the older child fascinated by history.