One of the best books of 2017 — remarkably tender, poignant, affable, witty, heartfelt, brief and profound — is this book from Oliver Jeffers, a deeply personal effort “written,” as he says in his dedication to his son, “in the first two months of your life as I tried to make sense of it all for you.”
Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth, written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
published in 2017 by Philomel Books
As new parents, I think we all come to a moment after the staggering disruption of birth and the blitzing whirlwind of coming face to face with this new arrival, when we hold that baby and think, “How on earth does anyone think I am responsible enough to raise and nurture this person? Who gave me a good-to-go card for this parenting thing?”
The momentous gap between their unknowing innocence and the vast universe of life and all it holds is bridged in large measure, for better or for worse, by us as parents. Suddenly we find ourselves reviewing this world and all it holds. What would we would like them to know of it? How do we begin to usher them into it?
Jeffers voices his thoughts here, in a distillation that’s succinct, warm, and hopeful, brimming with kindness and good will. He speaks directly to that brand new Earthling in his lap. “Well, hello. Welcome to this planet. We call it Earth.“
With his plain-spoken, conversational tone he gives a pithy, armchair tour of our planetary home with its seas and stars, madly-varied people and animals, accompanied by colorful, homely, and humorously-annotated illustrations. He wraps things up with just a few measures of counsel, strictly avoiding the saccharine or sappy, while delivering lines that will strike the grown-ups reading this book to their core.
This book would make a splendid gift for new parents. I think adults will appreciate it in ways no child really can. Nonetheless, Jeffers’ casual voice and witty asides make it a delight to share with children as well, perhaps especially older siblings as they, too, begin to understand all the things they’ve already learned about life on Planet Earth which their new baby has yet to glean.