Here We Are by Oliver Jeffers review – a heartfelt hug of a story

Jeffers’s first nonfiction book is a witty, tender introduction to the world for his newborn son

Like many new parents back from hospital, Oliver Jeffers found himself taking his baby on a tour of his home: “Here’s the kitchen, where we make food...” This sparked the idea for his first foray into nonfiction, a picture book introducing his son to “the big globe, floating in space, on which we live”. Unmistakably conceived in the afterglow of new parenthood – the sun blazes, everyone smiles and the baby is a cute, luminous cocoon lighting up the nursery – it bursts with tenderness.

As you’d also expect from the world-renowned creator of such characters as Henry (The Incredible Book Eating Boy) and Wilfred, with his botched attempts at moose-taming (This Moose Belongs to Me), it’s witty and fun. At the bottom of a diagram of the body, the label for “bones” reads: “To hold it all together.”

Beautiful illustrations of space and constellations cleverly echo How to Catch a Star, Jeffers’s 2004 career-launching debut. But, in the low light needed for bedtime stories, Jeffers’s trademark scrawly handwriting and details can be tricky to make out in these jet-black and purple drawings.

Born in Belfast, Jeffers now lives in Brooklyn and it’s evident that Here We Are, with its core messages to be kind, accepting and look after the planet, is a reaction to the age of Trump. One spread depicts dozens of people nudging up to one another – two lesbian brides beside a lady in a burqa; a sumo wrestler wedged between a nun and a punk (eagle-eyed parents will also spot the artist Peter Blake, denim jacket dotted with badges) – and the line: “...don’t be fooled, we are all people”.

An optimistic snapshot of contemporary life, this heartfelt hug of a book ought to become a classic.

• Here We Are by Oliver Jeffers is published by HarperCollins (£14.99). To order a copy for £12.74 go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99

Contributor

Imogen Carter

The GuardianTramp

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