If You Come to Earth by Sophie Blackwell

If You Come to Earth

I love read­ing word­less pic­ture books and pic­ture books that are very busy (think Richard Scarry’s books) with small groups of kids. The con­ver­sa­tions are always amaz­ing. At some point I can stop ask­ing ques­tion and just sit back as they hud­dle over the book, offer­ing sto­ries, point­ing things out, discussing.

My lat­est favorite of this “genre” is Sophie Blackall’s If You Come to Earth. I start read­ing this by hold­ing the book up in the usu­al sto­ry­time fash­ion so they can see the pic­tures. The text is sparse and the pic­tures are large.

Dear Vis­i­tor from Out­er Space,

If you come to Earth,

Here’s what you need to know.

Direc­tions are giv­en as to how to find us — ours is the gree­ny-blue plan­et with a tiny moon. Then there are a cou­ple of spreads indi­cat­ing the vast­ness of our world. With­in a cou­ple pages, the “cam­era view” tight­ens and sud­den­ly we’re look­ing at the many dif­fer­ent homes we live in and the won­der­ful­ly dif­fer­ent fam­i­ly con­fig­u­ra­tions we have.

If You Come to Earth
illus­tra­tion from If You Come to Earth, illus­tra­tion © Sophie Black­all.
Pub­lished by Chron­i­cle Books, 2020.

It’s at this point that the con­ver­sa­tion kicks in and I have to lay the book flat on the ground so we can all look at it and point out details, some­times com­par­ing them to our hous­es and fam­i­lies, some­times to some­one else’s. And then we move on to the people.

There are more than sev­en bil­lion peo­ple on Earth.

We all have bodies.

But every body is different.

A few spreads lat­er there are faces and the claim that we some­times show our feel­ings on our faces. This con­sis­tent­ly leads to rau­cous con­ver­sa­tion and demon­stra­tion of feel­ings on our faces.

This book shows some of the many ways we dress on plan­et earth. It shows our weath­er in all of its extremes, the immense vari­ety of trans­porta­tion options we have, and what we do with leisure time and work time. Spread after spread is filled with beau­ty and particularity.

There’s a spread with a huge table with a diverse array of peo­ple around it and food on it — a favorite of mine!

If You Come to Earth
illus­tra­tion from If You Come to Earth, illus­tra­tion © Sophie Black­all.
Pub­lished by Chron­i­cle Books, 2020.

The pages that show clas­si­fi­ca­tions — things that are part of nature and things that are made by peo­ple, things that are big and things that are small — always induce list mak­ing of the things that aren’t on the pages. Because Ms. Black­all can’t draw it all.

This book is a cel­e­bra­tion of cre­ation and human­i­ty. I love the ener­gy it pro­duces when I read it to kids. Once things get rolling, I hard­ly need do any­thing besides read the qui­et text and occa­sion­al­ly remind them “Gen­tle with the book, please … ” as they pull it clos­er for a bet­ter look.

Per­haps the thing I like most is that the child who is the nar­ra­tor of the book is pic­tured draw­ing the beau­ty and sim­i­lar­i­ties and dif­fer­ences on a long sheet of paper, the kind that comes on a roll.

So I unroll a Very Long Sheet of Paper and invite them to work togeth­er to fill it with all the things they thought of while read­ing If You Come to Earth. This can be a project added to over a num­ber of sto­ry­times. It can be a project at home that cre­ates a won­der­ful table run­ner and chance to talk about all the won­ders of our world. The excel­lent con­ver­sa­tion con­tin­ues as long as the mur­al draw­ing lasts.

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1 year ago

This is such a won­der­ful idea! Can’t wait to do it with my grand­kids. (I’m enjoy­ing Black­all’s new “Farm­house” right now.)