What On Earth Happened?


Last month we went to a presentation one evening at the kids’ school called “A History of the World in 20 Objects”.  The presentation was given by author Christopher Lloyd, who wrote the book “What on Earth Happened”, and it was nothing short of amazing.  The kids loved it, Matt and I loved it, and it’s actually resulted in multiple family discussions on historical events that have been both fun and interesting. 

As devout history nerds, Matt and I both wanted to see the presentation as soon as we read the email sent out by the school.  The kids were so annoyed when we announced that we’d reserved tickets: “Why do you make us do stuff like this?!?” was the general, moaning consensus among the children.  Undeterred, Matt and I both looked forward to it.

We didn’t realize, however, that Gabe would be seeing the presentation that morning during school.  It turned out to be great that he did, though!  A budding history geek himself, Gabe SO loved the school day presentation that he could. not. wait. to go see it a second time, and he convinced his siblings that it was going to be so fun and so cool

The idea behind the presentation is that many (most) of us know bits and pieces of the history of the world (going all the way back to the VERY beginning with the Big Bang), but that we don’t know it in a complete, chronological narrative.  The other point was that many (most) people also know bits and pieces of history, but we don’t make the connection between concurrent events to be able to see the relationships between them (i.e. it’s hard to reconcile the the “Wild West” portion of American history was happening at the same time as the Victorian Era in England).  I love this whole concept — viewing history from this perspective makes it so much easier to see the inter-connectedness of multiple different events. 

Gabe insisted we get to the auditorium early so we could get seats right up front.  And then he spent the entire time practically leaping out of his seat, hand raised, bursting with the desire to answer every question because he was SO EXCITED about all of it.  At one point I actually had to hold my arm across his chest to keep him from jumping up.  Later, I had to make him promise not to raise his hand for at least 3 or 4 questions to give someone else in the audience a chance to participate.  It was comical.  I almost felt badly that he was SO into it that he was barely giving anyone else a chance to speak up, but it’s hard to get mad at a kid for being that excited about learning important historical events.  Although Gabe was by far the most enthusiastic of my kids, all four of them paid rapt attention, answered questions, and were kept completely engaged for the entire presentation.

Christopher Lloyd, the author and presenter, was absolutely great with the kids (and the adults) in the audience, and he really, really made the topic just incredibly interesting and unique.  We ended up leaving the presentation having bought not just the full book, but several of his “wallbooks“, which are ingenious fold-out timelines depicting different perspectives on history.  I don’t doubt that we will eventually end up with the full collection.  To make it all even cooler, we were able to get our books signed by the author, who wrote a note to the kids to “Never stop asking questions!”.  Gabe was absolutely OVER THE MOON about it, and it all took place on Gabe’s 10th birthday, actually, so he was simply beyond thrilled.


Matt and I have both read at least part of the main book now, and on several occasions, I read excerpts out loud that I found surprising or enlightening and we ended up having family discussions on the size of the universe, the evolution of man, and Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection.  Anything that gets my kids thinking about that kind of stuff is good with me.  My kids will randomly flip through the books (which I leave out on the coffee table in the living room intentionally) and ask about stuff they see.  It’s been such a great conversation-starter.

If you’re into history at all, or if you’re not but you want to be, or if you want to show your children an amazing way to look at the interdependence and connectivity that exists between seemingly separate events going back pretty much as far as history goes, this is simply one of the best ways to do it that I’ve seen.  I can’t say enough good things about it.  This isn’t a paid post, I’m not being compensated, I just really, really love this whole line of books and activities and think they’re an amazing tool for teaching kids and adults alike.  Check out the website, watch the presentation online, get the books, and see history in a whole new way.



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3 thoughts on “What On Earth Happened?

  1. Mish

    Sounds like it might end up being his best birthday ever! LOL

    Sounds awesome. Mitchell has discovered Science. He cannot get enough. We are constantly talking throughout the day of all the different sciences having to do with weather, plants, animals, space, body, etc. . .

    My boss has the best history of the world poster on his desk. it is as long as his office.

  2. Pingback: An AMAZING talk, according to Gabe…. - An AMAZING talk, according to Gabe…. - What On Earth? Books

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