The Story of "Here We Are" with Oliver Jeffers

Seira Wilson on November 20, 2017

JeffersCover.jpgThe books Oliver Jeffers has written or illustrated, or written and illustrated are too numerous to name here, but a couple you might recognize right away are The Day the Crayons Quit and one of our best kids books of 2016, A Child of Books. I met him last year and he's every bit as fun as his books.  His latest is Here We Are, which he both wrote and illustrated.  It's a picture book guide to life of Earth--a message of togetherness, hope, and diversity.  It is also one of our best books of 2017 for children. 

The book is very personal, Jeffers wrote it for his young son, and we asked him to tell us about that. Below is a piece exclusively for Amazon Book Review readers and some wonderful photos of the artist/author at work.

I’ve made books for children for around fifteen years. Which is actually, not entirely true. I’ve made books for myself, that are mostly enjoyed by children (I seem to share a similar sense of humor with many 4 year olds) for around 15 years. 

Then two years ago my life on earth changed forever. I became a father. When I took my newborn son home from the hospital, I realized the massive responsibility of trying to explain our complex world to a completely blank slate. The very first time I carried him into our apartment I found myself giving him a little tour of the place. “This is a door, it’s for going through. This is a chair, it’s for sitting. This is a kitchen, it’s for midnight snacks…”

As we walked around over the next 2 months I realized that he knew absolutely nothing, and it was up to me to introduce the way this planet works to him. And as he grew a little older and I tried to explain more complicated things, take for example that “the sky is blue and sometimes it’s…uh…not,” I realized maybe I didn’t quite know so much either. Luckily, this has helped to remind me that we are never alone on Planet Earth. Being a member of this world means interacting with and learning from many different sorts of people, who might have much better answers for things than I ever would. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and I am coming to learn the truth of that more and more each day. 

Not long after Harland was born, I was often asked whether fatherhood would change the way I made books. Although I said “no” at the time, in truth, I already knew it would. Since, for the first time, I wanted to make a book not just for myself, but a book that was also for my son. I started drafting Here We Are, to outline all the basic notes I found myself giving him day by day, and the values my own parents had passed to me. Because, as the world seems to be becoming a more delicate and divided place, I want to make sure I'm doing my part to leave behind some basic principles on how to help look after it and each other. Namely, in the words of J.M Barrie, let us "try to be a little kinder than is necessary.”  -- Oliver Jeffers







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