• Picture Book Snob

Blog Tour: The Greatest Show on Earth

By Mini Grey, published by Puffin on 28th April, 2022

What's it about? Only the most sensational story there is – the history of our planet! Prepare to be amazed as you're taken through 4.6 billion years of life on Earth, presented as an entertaining theatrical performance. What can we learn?

The nonfiction debut of award-winning and internationally bestselling creator, Mini Grey, this explores the evolution of Earth as well as the creatures that inhabit it. We're shown exactly what was happening at every stage of Earth's development, who was living here and what life was like for them, and we're also treated to a glimpse of the future too.

What makes this stand out? It can be so hard to get our heads around the world's timeline but this maps everything out in an accessible and easy-to-follow format. I love the light-hearted and humorous approach with phrases like, 'And Hi! to all you microbes in the audience,' as well as the obviously homemade and slightly amateur special effects. You really feel like you have entered a theatre – and the best kind of theatre at that – an unpolished but atmospheric fleapit. This book captures all the excitement of sitting in a dark space with your attention focused on the stage, and the amount of information it communicates is staggering.

About those illustrations... The Greatest Show on Earth is far more than a book - it's an event - and the powerful illustrations make it a truly unforgettable experience. They're so dynamic and visually interesting, and as packed full of humour as they are brimming with facts. Every page is a marvellous work of art. You need to see the book in person to fully grasp how stunning it is.

The facial expressions of the show's cast and the creatures they're describing are hilarious. Mini Grey manages to make even single-celled beings amusing and just like a typical stage production, there is so much happening in every scene - and behind the scenes too. I love the troupe on stage (and all their names) as well as the insects in the orchestra pit and how what they're doing - or wearing - often ties in with the theme of that particular page. I love the amateurish aspects of the production and how obviously handmade the props look. The jellyfish are clearly made from balloons while dinosaurs and other Jurassic creatures are hinged together with visible screws and operated with ropes and pulleys. The mammals are collages cut out of old magazines while stale slices of 'Bovis' bread represents Earth's crust. We see large boxes of matches and sparklers and even a stick of 'Prott' glue.

The handcrafted elements make the images even more amusing and appealing but will also inspire little readers to create their own art out of recycled and repurposed items too. On the page about humans, we're told our most mighty superpower is probably our imagination and the book itself also celebrates and encourages creative pursuits.

The eco-friendly theatre has been made out of a shoebox and recycled dump materials are used in the performance. It's depressing to see the dump in the background but placing the theatre there is another effective device. It highlights how landfill sites and waste are one of our biggest legacies as humans. Mini Grey shows how insignificant humans are and also how detrimental we have been in the relatively short time we've been around. We really get the sense that we are just borrowing the planet, but if it was a library book, we'd definitely have to pay a hefty fine.

Why we love it... It's as phenomenal as the events it describes. To simplify such a complex subject and bring it to life with such magnificent illustrations is an astonishing achievement. Transforming natural history into a fairground attraction is an incredibly clever narrative technique. I know this is one of those special books that my kids will return to over and over again and that will stay with them for life. Why you need it...

There is no reference book quite like this one! Introducing show-stopping nuggets of information in such a dramatic and comical way makes this a thrilling as well as an educational read. By shining a spotlight on our magnificent planet and showing the impact humans have on it, this book encourages children to care for the environment too. The Greatest Show on Earth is an essential resource for parents and teachers. Definitely one of the greatest books on Earth, this is destined to become a beloved source of wisdom and wonder for children everywhere.


About the author-illustrator:

Mini Grey was given her name after being born in a Mini in a car park in Newport, Wales. She studied for an MA in Sequential Illustration at Brighton under the tutelage of John Vernon Lord. Mini also worked as a primary school teacher in Oxford, where she now lives. Her books include The Last Wolf, Egg Drop, The Pea and the Princess (shortlisted for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal), Biscuit Bear (winner of the Nestlé Children's Book Prize Gold Award), Traction Man is Here (winner of the Boston Horn Book Award and shortlisted for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal), The Adventures of the Dish and the Spoon (winner of the Nestlé Children's Book Prize Bronze Award and winner of the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal), and Traction Man meets Turbodog. Mini Grey is one of the Big Picture's ten Best New Illustrators. You can find more of Mini's work on her website: minigrey-blog.com/

Thanks so much to the publisher for inviting us on the tour and sharing this remarkable book with us. Don't forget to visit all the other stops on Instagram to learn more about it: