Review by Honor McConnell
Stunningly poignant yet existential, Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth manages to introduce and explain this complicated world to a new and curious audience. Alongside his gorgeous illustrations, author Oliver Jeffers describes Earth almost like a laid-back tour guide with a fact sheet at hand. However, he never dives too deep into technical language, as he opts to leave all of the science lingo by the door and use comedic and heartfelt descriptions instead.
For example, when describing the human body, he writes rather hilariously that “on our planet, there are people. One people is a person. You are a person. You have a body. Look after it, as most bits don’t grow back,” or that animals “can’t speak, though that’s no reason not to be nice to them.”
However, I think that the strength and beauty of this book come from its more intimate descriptions of our planet and the overall emphasis on kindness.
On the very first page below his dedication to his infant son, Jeffers includes a quote by J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan. It reads, “Shall we make a new rule of life from tonight: always try to be a little kinder than necessary?” This sets the overall tone of the book – planet Earth is complicated and messy, and often, even we adults don’t understand it. But the most important thing is to treat everything and everyone with kindness.
“More often, though, [things] move quickly, so use your time well. It will be gone before you know it…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…Make sure you look after it, as it’s all we’ve got.”
This book is suitable for children of all ages. While it is written to introduce “brand new” humans to our planet, the writing and illustrations will delight any age – including adults. (After all, we have spent more time on this earth.) Here We Are makes a perfect baby shower gift or a present to a child who is questioning their world.
Age: 0-6 years
Pages: 48 pages