The book opens as a little boy—Quinn—lays on his bed penning a letter to a “Visitor from Outer Space,” letting them know everything they’ll need to know about the Earth (and its inhabitants!) when they arrive. Exquisite detail and diversity permeate the book, as two-time Caldecott winner Blackall pairs the matter-of-fact text of Quinn’s letter with gorgeous spreads showcasing the Earth’s geography, people, plants, animals, marine life, weather, facial expressions, modes of transportation, occupations, hobbies, and more. Blackall addresses deep topics in the illustrations with absolute poignancy—a triangle of those who have lost their homes (due to fire, flood and war) is included in the spread showcasing different types of homes (along with a castle closely resembling Neuschwanstein, a trailer, a lighthouse, and more), one page captures the impact of disease and accident as six people lay on hospital beds, and another simultaneous highlights conflict by juxtaposing two children wrestling and a greyscale war (with some soldiers oozing red blood)—in a child-appropriate way. In an author’s note at the book’s conclusion, Blackall shares that most of the people illustrated are actual people, which adds an additional layer of meaning and vibrancy to this well-crafted and striking book. Each and every page is a work of art, with new details to marvel at and explore on each re-reading.
The “Little Genius” badge is awarded to recognize books that excel in being instructive and enjoyable.
The “Eye for Details” badge is awarded to books that include an exceptional level of detail to discover and enjoy in the illustrations.
This book is an ambitious undertaking, and while not every part spoke to me (like school being where we go to learn what to do when we're adults and not knowing anything about what happens before or after this life), and one part about war was illustrated in a way that would probably distract my young readers from the point being made, there are still really praiseworthy moments with remarkable illustrations.
Sophie Blackall (www.sophieblackall.com) is the illustrator of several award-winning picture books, including Meet Wild Boars by Meg Rosoff, Pecan Pie Baby by Jacqueline Woodson, Big Red Lollipop (by Rukhsana Khan), and the Ivy and Bean books by Annie Barrows. Her many honors include a BCCB Blue Ribbon, Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award, Society of Illustrators Founders Award, Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Book, Book Sense 76 Pick, and New York Times Top Ten Picture Book. Her artwork has also appeared in murals as part of the New York City MTA’s “Arts for Transit” program. Previously she has had jobs in a shoe shop and a robot factory. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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