If You Come to Earth by Sophie Blackall
From the first page, Sophie Blackall’s If You Come to Earth draws you in. Written as a travelogue for celestial visitors, this book is not my usual recommendation, but is indeed a treasure in my conferring bag.
You may know Sophie Blackall as a picture book illustrator. Her quirky pair of iconic girls, Ivy and Bean grace many a book bin at our elementary school. She won the Caldecott twice in a decade for Finding Winnie in 2016 and then in 2019, for Hello Lighthouse. The illustrations in this book, If You Come to Earth are nothing short of stunning. Not since Peter Spier’s People have I wanted to pour over illustrations with young readers this much. I am only sorry that in this short space, you may not be able to appreciate one of my favorite pages, Some things are invisible.
This book may not be your traditional read aloud. It is very long for a picture book. This is also a book that requires close reading and careful consideration for its minimal words and detailed illustrations. With sparse text, Blackall encourages us to consider the world around it and how we would explain it to others.
And yet, as I consider my new favorite writing genre, nonfiction writing projects, this is my newest favorite mentor text. I can imagine student writers using this clever format to craft a travelogue for their little corner of the earth. Blackall encourages us to look beyond the obvious to many things that could benefit from a closer look.
This book is my go-to when a student needs a few distracted minutes to regroup. Though I must warn you, one of my young friends admonished me about this page.
You shouldn’t show me this book, he says pouring over the pages. Why? I say. There’s war and blood. There’s war and blood in the world too. I answer. We pause to consider that in silence.
In the midst of that one page that describes war so succinctly, are pages that will give space for conversations about diversity and conservation, the way we eat dinner and move around the earth.
This is a book to treasure. I leave you with one last illustration. You might use just these two photos to discuss earth day.