Book Review: Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth, by Oliver Jeffers

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_here_we_areFrom the endpapers on, this book is an extraordinary display of Oliver Jeffers’ talent. It is a truly wonderful dedication to the new life of his son, written in the couple of months after he was born.

The endpapers teach you to navigate by the stars, should you find yourself lost – with the front showing the constellations in the Northern Hemisphere, and the back showing constellations in the Southern Hemisphere. Then, Earth is placed in context within the solar system, and we get a quick tour guide patter started: ‘We’re glad you found us as space is very big.

‘There is much to see and do here on Earth, so let’s get started with a quick tour.’

The tour-guide patter reminds me a little of Marvin on a good day, from the Douglas Adams books. It is quirky and sweet, and perfect for a book intended as a guide for living. As we go through the types of land, Jeffers labels pictures: a volcano (hot), a snowy mountain (cold), a plateau (flat) – without needing to use language that is above a child’s level.

Sometimes, instead of labels, he has gone for a straight dive into the majesty of the world, for example, under the sea. My 7-year-old found plenty to see here, identifying as many underwater  characters as he could – including a ghostly Bluebeard on a sunken galleon.

From big-picture to small, we then go into a bit of biology, then sociology. There is a cut-out of a child with their vital organs showing – my favourite part of this page is the note that shows which bits will grow back  (nails, and hair). Then: ‘The most important things for people to remember are to eat, drink and stay warm.’His demonstration pages of the diversity of humans, and of animals are detailed and amazing. I noted that he no longer only puts sticks in place of legs (unless the animals have twiggy legs), as he did for many years.

The book of Jeffers’ that this reminds me of most is his previous title (written by Sam Winston), A Child of Books – it has a similar tone which could be read as a bit saccharine if it wasn’t for the way he pulls it off. The message though, is wonderful. It gives any child a lot to look forward to, without making them anxious about not fulfilling the ambitions of their parent for their future.

‘It looks big, Earth.
But there are lots of us on here
(7,327,450,667 and counting)
so be kind.

There is enough for everyone.’

Once Here We Are makes it into board book format, I’ll definitely be recommending it as a gift for any new baby (alongside something local, of course). In the meantime, this hardcover edition with the most gorgeous indented cover under the dust jacket, will join picture-book lovers’ collections worldwide (as well as staying on the ‘good shelf’ until baby won’t destroy it.)

Reviewed by Sarah Forster

Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth
by Oliver Jeffers
Published by HarperCollins NZ
ISBN 9780008266165

Book Review: A Child of Books, by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_a_child_of_booksWhat a remarkable piece of creativity this book is. I have admired Oliver Jeffers since I read the Crayons books [The Day the Crayons Quit, and The Day the Crayons Came Home], and think his work is wonderful.

However I could NEVER have imagined something like this. It’s a picture book, but it’s not. It’s maybe for kids, but really not. It’s really for adults, but also for kids…. The storyline is deceptively simple, and will appeal to all those who know just how important stories are in our lives, from birth to our final destination whatever that is.

But it’s in the actualisation of the words of the story on each page that the magic lies. Every two page spread is illustrated – it’s a picture book, after all – but beside, over, under, around the child of books, part of every page is composed of text from wonderful stories. Gulliver’s Travels, the Swiss Family Robinson, Peter Pan and Wendy, fairy tales and many more are woven, drawn, imagined into amazing backgrounds. It’s a delight. It’s also nearly impossible (for my eyes, any way) to read the background illustrations, but I think it’s the effect of these illustrations which is so wonderful. They support the text of the storyline brilliantly and I really, really hope that Jeffers and Winston create other books together.

Meanwhile, I encourage you to buy this book, borrow it from your library, give it to your teenagers and your granny – it’s indeed a book for all ages.

Reviewed by Sue Esterman

A Child of Books
by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781406358315

Book Review: The Day the Crayons Came Home, by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers

TDTCCHOME_JKT_UK_PG.inddAvailable in bookshops nationwide.

Daywalt and Jeffers’ first collaboration saw the crayons quit, whether due to overuse or underuse, misuse or disagreements with their fellows. This time, the crayons realise that home is where they want to be – or most of them.

Both this and the previous book are works of creative geniuses creating worlds within worlds for our personified crayons. Each crayon has its own traits, and they are determined to assert their individuality, via realistic postcards sent to their owner, Duncan. Brown is upset at being used to colour … you know what; pea green a.k.a Esteban the Magnificent is off to see the world if only Duncan would open the front door; while my 5-year-old very much related to the fate of Big Chunky Toddler Crayon, bitten by Duncan’s younger brother.

My 5-year-old son and I laughed out loud at many of the superbly hand-drawn letters in this book. I did need to explain some of the more subtle ironies, but once he had it, he wanted it read over and over again. As Dan is of the mind set that only new is good, this is a good sign that this book may endure in his esteem for some time!

Our favourite crayon character had to be bright red: this geographically-challenged crayon saw the best collaboration between the written and illustrated aspects of the book. First, he is shown looking impatiently at his watch at the poolside where he was left after a particularly hilarious picture of Duncan’s Dad’s sunburn…8 months ago. Then, he is on a camel in an image of the … Newcastle pyramids? On the way to the North Pole. The next time we check in, he is skiing in the Amazon. Dan knows where the pyramids are, and how warm rainforests are, so he was beside himself as we read these parts.

Duncan is upset to learn of the fate of each of his crayons, so he goes around and gathers them up after reading their notes, only to find they don’t fit in his crayon box any more: so he takes all their fears into account when creating a perfect solution.

After reading this book, your child will never see their crayons the same way ever again. Perhaps they will go on adventures together, and colour bravely into the future.

Reviewed by Sarah Forster

The Day the Crayons Came Home
by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
Published by Harper Collins
ISBN 9780008124434

Book Review: This Moose Belongs to Me by Oliver Jeffers

This book is in bookstores now.

Abby my 18 month granddaughter swopped upon this book and demanded that I read it to her. She was intrigued by the idea of a moose (she has no comprehension – is it a cow or a horse?) and Wilfred’s adventures with his moose. Wilfred promptly names him Marcel. Marcel was very good at sheltering Wilfred from the rain (rain Mammar – can’t say Grandma yet!).

Wilfred did have rather a lot of rules that were perhaps above Abby’s ability of comprehension, but I could imagine Eden my 5 year old granddaughter understanding rules. When you are a bit older life seems full of rules.

Marcel though is not necessarily Wilfred’s. As the story unfolds we begin to understand that perhaps Marcel/Rodrigo, or even Dominic is not actually owned by anybody.

This book is beautifully illustrated with additional landscape backgrounds reprinted by permission of the Estate of Alexander Dzigurski. The language is enough to keep the attention throughout the story.

“Abby’s book” was the final decision by one 18-month-old. Grandma capitulated by coming home minus one book.

Highly recommended

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

This Moose Belongs to Me
By Oliver Jeffers
Published by HarperCollins Publishers
ISBN  9780007263875