Addressing his infant son about what it means to live on Earth, the author/illustrator offers a mix of planetary facts, quotations, bits of advice, and illustrations.
The dedication page to 2-month-old Harlan includes, from the author, “These are the things / I think you need to know,” as well as a quote from J.M. Barrie about the importance of kindness. Jeffers’ fans will not be disappointed by the scant, lilting text and the boldly colored, stylized depictions of people, animals, and scenery. Themes include the physical planet, caring for the body, diversity of people and animals, time well spent, and caring for the planet—with kindness as an overarching element. The tone is unsentimental and conversational and laced with Jeffers’ trademark wryness: “We know a bit about the sea, but we’ll talk some more about that once you’ve learned to swim.” The facts disclosed are rudimentary, as is the vocabulary—but this entertains rather than bores, because readers are intermittently reminded that the book’s audience is a baby. The double-page spread illustrating the “shapes, sizes and colors” of people is amazingly inclusive of ethnicities, abilities, and lifestyles (though the depiction of what seems to be an Arctic Native in furs speaks to the difficulty of balancing inclusion against stereotype in such an effort). Scattered throughout are funny, never snarky asides—as when a parrot corrects the assertion that animals don’t talk and when part of the universe is labeled the “stratosthingy.”
Big ideas ably packed into little, bright packages. (Picture book. 3-7)