Review of If You Come to Earth

If You Come to Earth
by Sophie Blackall; illus. by the author
Primary    Chronicle    80 pp.    g
9/20    978-1-4521-3779-7    $18.99

Quinn, a small child in a red gnome hat, writes a letter to potential visitors to our planet to explain to them what we’re about: our location in the universe, our geography, our natural world, and the varied ways we humans manage housing, clothing, transportation, family life, and getting along. It’s a promising (and ­idealistic) premise, and Blackall deftly captures the approach and tone of a child writer. “Fish can swim but they can’t walk. Most animals can walk or swim or gallop or hop, but they can’t fly. Some birds can swim and walk and fly, so if I had to choose, I’d be a bird.” The true delight of the book, however, lies in its stunning illustrations. Each page features a dynamic, energetic composition, a wealth of precise detail arranged in unexpected ways. For instance, a flock of various birds forms the shape of a single bird if you squint. There are games to play, from finding Quinn in the crowd to recognizing some famous people among the field of folk that Blackall portrays (Ella Fitzgerald, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Carla Hayden, to name a few). The robust subtext is diversity in all the usual areas as well as quirkier ones, such as all the different ways humans can arrange our legs to sit comfortably on a picnic blanket. Sweet, funny, moving, timely, and beautiful.

From the September/October 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Sarah Ellis
Sarah Ellis is a Vancouver-based writer and critic, recently retired from the faculty of The Vermont College of Fine Arts.

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