Meanwhile back on Earth by Oliver Jeffers

cover image

An outstanding view of Earth from space is constructed in this highly original perspective of our place in space by internationally applauded author illustrator, Oliver Jeffers.

A father takes his two children in the car travelling initially to the moon. Driving at 37 miles an hour, they will take one year to cover the half a million miles. From the moon they look back at Earth one year ago, and see people cannot agree on what to do about the world’s problems. The family travels on to Venus, seventy eight years away. Looking back they see that Earth 78 years ago was besieged by war with tanks, soldiers, planes dropping bombs, with an atomic bomb seen in the background. Driving on for another 150 years take them to Mercury and looking back they sees the carve up of Africa, as European nations fight over this continent. Mars is 170 years away, and adult readers will be predicting what conflict Jeffers may allude to as the family arrives on the red planet. Four nations again are fighting over a small piece of land jutting into the sea. Not much has changed.

And so on we go, the readers taken on a trip around space, seeing what planets are in our solar system and how far they are from each other, giving children a unique perspective of our place in space. And more importantly a perspective on what we have achieved over millennia, as each turn takes us back a number of years, revealing the incessant conflict which has occurred.

A children’s guide to the universe and a brief history of the conflicts of the world are presented in a way that is most accessible, as the children are in a car with their dad, driving between planets. The vastness of space is broken down into manageable chunks, the view back to Earth conceivable as the readers are all aware of the tensions that borders create.

Jeffers was born and raised in Northern Ireland and says that being in New York gives him a perspective of the conflict back home. The us and them becomes just us, as he travels back in time to when man first lived in caves, intent on survival, and nothing else.

Beautiful images of space throughout this story will give all readers pause for thought as each of the planets radiating from Earth comes into view. The small car and its three occupants journey across space and time taking the willing readers with them, sharing a view of the trouble the world has built for itself, finding in the end that there is no place like home.

The endpapers offer an outline of our solar system with Earth’s distances from each planet and a time line reprising the conflicts alluded to in the text. Adults and children alike will be intrigued and provoked, initiating endless discussions and multiple readings, while quotations from astronauts add another layer of interest.

For information about this uniquely talented author look here and be sure to check out the clip of the book on his website, or find it on YouTube.

Themes: Conflict, Space, Solar system, Journey, Home.

Fran Knight