We Go Way Back by Idan Ben-Barak

Reviewed by Antonella Townsend

It is that time of year, again, when parents will be looking for Christmas presents, and Allen & Unwin have come to the rescue with We Go Way Back by Idan Ben-Barak, illustrated by Philip Bunting.

Idan Ben-Barak has degrees in microbiology and in the history and philosophy of science.  He writes science books for children that have won awards all over the world.

Philip Bunting loves illustrating picture books believing that the more fun the child has during their early reading experiences, the more likely they will be to return to books, improve their literacy skills, and later find joy in reading and learning.

We Go Way Back is a science picture book, apparently for ages six to ten, although, parents, you will love reading this entertaining book too.  It is immediately appealing – colourful, large (25 cm x 20 cm) and educational in a fun way.   A laugh and learn how it all began book.

Idan challenges the reader to wonder ‘What is Life?’  We all have it.  A starfish, a tree, a fly, a dead fly had it, and an egg might have it.  But a rock, a bus and a robot don’t have it.  (Every example is illustrated).  The following page gives examples of what various people suggest life is, exactly.   Their answers range broadly, such as: animation, self-reproduction with variation, a force, magic, an autocatalytic reactive system, or energy.   Written in a spiral, Idan suggests: Life is the way that some things make more things that are lot like themselves but sometimes a little bit different.  Then he starts the we-go-way-back story to when the world looked like this – and for several pages it’s a bit busy, there was a lot going on – all beautifully illustrated by stages.  Idan admits we don’t know exactly where or how it happened, although he makes a few suggestions.  We do know about the elements that make up life.  These are illustrated and appear in circles. (Non-science-y parents will be learning too; always good to fill in the gaps.)  Then he moves to molecules that eventually found themselves in bubbles …  a clever bubble popped up that made copies of itself although each one a bit different …  The last page opens out into a collage of animals illustrating all the animals that little bubble became.

To sum up – visually engaging, entertaining, and educational. A worthwhile present!

We Go Way Back

By Idan Ben-Barak

Illustrated by Philip Bunting


Allen & Unwin


$24.99; 36pp [HB]



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