Meanwhile Back on Earth…


Let’s don our space helmets and step into the space car for a journey. It would take about a year to travel to the moon, driving at the average speed of 35 kilometres an hour. We’d need to look into our rear vision mirror, for that’s a responsible thing to do when we drive. Therefore, what would we see back on Earth? About a year ago, it seems that life was continuing much as it had been at the start of the twenty-first century. Therefore, everyone was distracted.

Thereafter driving on? To Earth’s closest planetary neighbour, Venus? That would take about seventy- eight years. At that point, a glimpse into our rear view mirror would show the planet convulsed by a world war. We’d hope that this would never be repeated. Then again, what might we see if we travel on? ‘If we [keep] heading towards the sun, it would be a 150-year drive to Mercury’. That would take us back to the late 1800s when ‘a few small countries were racing up to divid up and own a valuable bit of land and the people in it‘. Further on? Toward Mars and 170 years ago? Thereafter, 283 years ago’ to ‘the middle of the 1700s and ‘some humans were about to start fighting each other‘.

Not only is this an informative journey through space, considering the physics of the journey, but it’s a philosophical and historical journey. Thereafter, the setting, a father driving his children who argue to ‘Stop looking out my window‘  seeks to show that while the Earth is big, humanity’s focus has always been small. Thereafter, our planet is a pinch within the solar system, and each of us barely a blink.

Bookwagon loves the concept within this mighty, beautiful and fascinating book. We suggest that Meanwhile Back on Earth… is an essential title that homes and schools should know, read, discuss and cherish. This is a significant book.

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Meanwhile Back on Earth

Finding Our Place Through Time and Space

Oliver Jeffers


It seems that humans have always fought for their own space, right through history. So what if we were to take a drive through history? It seems that we’d find examples of our perpetual fight for space… For example, if we took a journey wherein we’d ‘turn‘ our vehicle ‘into a space car‘ to ‘head out towards the moon‘ we’d take ‘almost a year to drive there’. At this point we’d need to check ‘the mirror to see what we’re up to on our planet‘. It’ seems that at that point life was ‘as we left it at the start of the twenty-first century where everyone seems distracted and can’t agree what to do next‘. However what about moving left, to travel onto Earth’s closest neighbour, Venus? It seems we’d arrive in ‘the middle of the twentieth century’ at a time that ‘the whole planet was fighting’.
Oliver Jeffers extends his theme of existence shown in picture books including Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth with Meanwhile Back on Earth... Our journey in the space car enables us to see recurrent echoes of human behaviour through pivotal points in history. Therefore, we consider the emergence of the United States, alongside the emergence of Ireland, for example.
While it’s evident that this is the author with his children taking the journey, there’s a sense that humankind is along for the ride. What’s more, with his anecdotes, references to earlier works, echoes of past artists like L.S. Lowry and then his evident research, we arrive at an outstanding book. In fact, Bookwagon recommends Meanwhile Back on Earth… to readers of all ages. This is a title that merits discussion, sharing, knowing well alongside a place on every home and school bookshelf. It is magnificent.



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