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Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth

Authored by Oliver Jeffers
Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
Published by HarperCollins Publishers

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Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth:

Well, hello. And welcome to this Planet. We call it Earth.

This nonfiction picture book from Oliver Jeffers is a new direction from him since we are usually treated to fiction in his incredible back catalogue of picture books. The idea for this book came when Jeffers’ became a new parent and said he ‘realised, first hand, the massive responsibility of explaining our complex world to a completely blank slate’. He wanted to ‘talk about some of the basic values my parents had taught me, of kindness, tolerance and global responsibility…[as] we are all connected, rotating around the sun equally, and together’.

And so, we have Here We Are. And it’s special. A picture book that, though nonfiction, reads in familiar Oliver Jeffers original storytelling style, taking the reader on a journey through space, introducing planet Earth. As this was written for his son when he was born, the text reads as a voice in a conversational style, a parent talking to a young baby or child which brings warmth and heart throughout,

Then, there is the sea,

which is full of wonderful things.

We know a bit about the sea,

but we’ll talk some more about

that once you’ve learned to swim.

This text is accompanied by wonderful illustrations showing all the different aspects of planet earth: all the heights and depths of the land and sea; the sky and space; people – inclusive of ethnicities, abilities, and lifestyles – and animals in many shapes, sizes  and colour; day and night; country and city and more. All these illustrations are multi-layered and have familiar Jeffers handwritten notes and labelled diagrams, giving parent and child all the room they can possibly want for it to grow with them. Within and beyond the simple text are opportunities for finding out and asking questions about space and our planet, yet still opening up possibilities for curiosity, wonder and imaginative thinking. There’s also Jeffers style quirky humour too: when we see the diagram of a body, the bones are labelled: bones (to hold it all together).

Here We Are is a beautifully illustrated picture book that encourages us to think and talk to children about kindness, environmental responsibility, looking after the diversity of Earth and everyone and everything on it. This comes bursting through on every page. It’s a book to buy a newborn and with longevity for all ages.