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Seaside story

A Port Through Time

Illustrated by Steve Noon; Dorling Kindersley pound;12.99; Eight-plus

This is the colourful story of a fictional seaport, from neolithic hunters in their dugouts to today's pleasure boats and illegal immigrants. The pictures are very busy, like a Breughel painting or Where's Wally? spread.

Boats fill the harbour, the quayside bustles with men loading and offloading, soldiers on their way to the New World, travelling dentists, scolding wives, smugglers, rope-makers, Hollywood film stars, missionaries and a corrupt clergyman. There's also a clumsy chap to find on every page, having mishaps through the ages.

The historical detail is excellent. Cut-aways and cross-sections show what is going on inside ships and buildings - and quite disreputable some of it is. There are frequent reminders of links with the wider world. The Roman port has Greek doctors and Spanish lawyers, the Edwardian port has soldiers heading for the colonies, and the 17th century port is packing a ship with goods to trade for African slaves.

A survey of major ports and an illustrated timeline of ships complete a witty visual feast

Sean Lang is a research fellow at Anglia Ruskin University and honorary secretary of the Historical Association

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