Mother and child ponder the past in discussing who might have traveled down an old, old road. The story looks backwards from the pioneer settlers all the way to prehistoric man and animals. The road is just a trace through the woods, but folks have been traveling it thousands of years. Each page of this storybook reveals who and what preceded a young boy and his mother on the road they are walking. This dramatic and personal book fosters a rich understanding of our world. 1996 (orig.
PreS-Gr 3-- Lyon tackles the difficult subject of historical continuity and evolution. The spare and elegant text creates a poetic yet childlike mood as a young boy poses a series of questions, beginning with the one in the title, concerning a road he and his mother are exploring. Her explanations carry them in reverse chronology past the time of her great-grandparents, westward settlers, Indians and buffalo, to mammoths and the period when the area was under water. The book comes to a somewhat vague conclusion in response to the boy wondering what came before: `` . . . questions came before sea and ice, before mastadon and grizzly bear/ before Indian and pioneer, before soldiers and newlyweds/ the mystery of the making place--that came before this road.'' Children may have a hard time with the ending, although they will likely find the rest intriguing. Nevertheless, this is a book that will be most successful in the hands of an adult who can introduce the concepts and answer the inevitable additional questions. Catalanotto's double-page watercolor paintings, which make extensive use of light and shadow for dramatic effect, are dreamy, romanticized representations of each scenario; if laid end to end, they would create a mural that would help young readers understand the continuum. --Ellen Fader, Westport Public Library, CT