Maybe You are Looking for a Baby Gift? Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth
This past Saturday, while on call in my office, I saw three newborns. Each one was a few days old, newly discharged from the hospital. Each one was warm and tiny and made me long for those first few delirious days when my sons were new: milky, mewing, and soft.
Looking ahead on my schedule, there are another three newborns tomorrow. Two on Tuesday. Nursery rounds are full. I am not suggesting that perhaps people were quarantined about forty weeks ago, but. . .maybe you are in the market for a baby gift or two? I’ve got you covered.
The best gift to give new parents is food, laundry, or cleaning assistance. After that, books! You simply cannot go wrong with giving classic board books; Goodnight Moon, Pat the Bunny, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar are all winners. In fact, one of these three books is sold every thirty seconds! This means no nursery is complete without them. It also means your friends are probably going to get them as a baby gift from someone else.
I enjoy giving baby gift books that the parents enjoy now and the baby grows into later. Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth is my current favorite. Oliver Jeffers wrote this book when his own son was just two months old. As he says in the dedication, “I tried to make sense of it all for you. These are things I think you need to know”.
The book is heartfelt and exudes kindness. It is, quite simply, a father trying to explain the world to his son. It begins by describing our planet with “a quick tour”. He describes land and sea. He eludes to the sky and its wonder. He tells his son that he is a person, with a body. This is my favorite page in the book:
“On our planet, there are people.
One people is a person.
You are a person. You have a body.
Look after it, as most bits don’t grow back”
I laugh at this page every time I read it. As a parent, I am in a perpetual state of worry about my children and the safety of their bodies. Really, it all boils down to the fact that all the parts I so carefully crafted cannot be regenerated!
The book goes on to share that there are thousands of ways for people to look and act and sound, but that we are all people. The same goes for animals, who are even more splendid in appearance. He shares with his son to treat all people and animals tenderly. He reminds him of the most important thing a baby can learn:
“Generally how it works is that when the sun is out, it is daytime, and we do stuff. The rest of the time is night when it is dark, save for the moon, and we sleep. (Please?)“
He talks about how time moves quickly, so we should make the most of it. He looks forward to the discoveries his son will make, the problems he will solve. He ends the book by promising to always be there for his son and the questions to come, and reminding him he is never alone on Earth.
While the book is endearing and tugs at the heart just a bit (postpartum parents will cry), what really makes the book sing are the illustrations. Jeffers is a magnificent artist. From the newborn hiding on the planet Earth on the cover, arms outstretched, to the shipwreck on the ocean floor, the pictures in this book are like a treasure hunt. Cool lulling tones of purple and blue dominate, making the book feel calm, with bright spots of color that catch the eye. Jeffers is cheeky in his annotations of his drawings, labeling details in his own handwriting. The pages detailing all the types of people and animals on the planet made my eight year old son gasp. He spent at least two minutes on each page, just appreciating the art. Even the end pages are lovely.
You are going to need a baby gift some time this year; my unscientific study says so. It’s been a long pandemic, people! So buy this one. The premise of this gorgeous book is that we are never alone on Earth. This gift shows your friends and the new baby that they are never alone when they have you.
- Written by Oliver Jeffers
- Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
- Published by Philomel Books, Penguin Imprint, November 2017
- 48 pages, recommended age 3-7 years, as well as newborn parents
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