Oliver Jeffers at the Eden Project
Award-winning children's book author and illustrator Oliver Jeffers charms and illuminates at the Eden Project.
In the Eden Project’s Mediterranean Biome, Oliver Jeffers slipped onto the stage at precisely 2pm on 12 November 2017, unannounced and unassuming, to introduce the audience to his story world in Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth.
For the uninitiated, Oliver Jeffers is the award-winning author and illustrator of numerous picture books, including Lost and Found, based on a true story of a child taking home a baby penguin from Belfast Zoo, and The Incredible Book Eating Boy, about a boy who gets smarter with each book he eats (until, of course, it all goes wrong).
The illustrations in Jeffers’s books are gorgeous; I first saw last year’s publication, The Child of Books, in the book shop at Tate Modern and was drawn to the typography that accompanies the story of a young girl finding a boy and introducing him to books.
Imogen Carter, writing last month in The Guardian, describes Jeffers’s latest publication Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth as ‘a heartfelt hug of a book.’ She draws attention, as a contrast with current politics in the USA, to the illustrations and the inclusivity that these promote, alongside the words, ‘…don’t be fooled, we are all human.’
At Eden, Oliver proceeded to captivate the audience’s attention for 45 minutes with true, well almost true, but not really, non-stop stories of actual events, if a little embellished, that led to the formulation of his highly successful children’s books.
Adults and children alike, seated on magic carpets on the floor, lined the low white walls and standing on the surrounding walkways, giggling at Oliver’s stand-up comedian approach to entertaining an audience as he shared his tips for writing (applicable to all ages):
The first key to successful writing is to always carry a crayon and a piece of paper and write anything and everything down.
If in doubt about what to write, include an elephant in your story.
If that gets boring, add in elephant wings or rocket propulsion.
Write a Christmas story.
Jeffers then used a pea, a plate and a pair of sunglasses to demonstrate how scale works in the solar system and to simulate a solar eclipse. After these feats he read aloud from Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth, written to introduce his baby son to some of the systems, solar included, operating in his new world.
Some lucky audience members, including children who, like magician’s assistants, helped demonstrate Jeffers’s writing tips, left with signed pages from the flip-chart. The boy with a dinosaur tee-shirt was particularly happy with Jeffers’s portrait of him, looking remarkably like a dinosaur!
To find out more about Jeffers you can check out his website, where you'll find, along with info on his books, signposts to his artwork and short film collaborations (including those for the U2 track Ordinary Love).
Born in Belfast, Jeffers and his family now live in Brooklyn.
by Clare Heath