Award-winning author and illustrator Oliver Jeffers is publishing a new book with HarperCollins at the end of this year and has signed a new two-book deal with the publisher for future publishing. Ann-Janine Murtagh, executive publisher at HarperCollins Children’s Books struck the new deal for world rights, including digital and audio, with Paul Moreton at The Bell Lomax Moreton Agency.
The new title is Jeffers’ first non-fiction picture book, Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth, for which the publisher has world rights. The book is a guide to the world which, according to Jeffers, lays out “the most basic principles of humanity in an extremely holistic, sometimes comedic, way”.
It was partly inspired by the birth of Jeffers’ son (pictured with him below) nearly two years ago. He told The Bookseller: “As we were walking around he would look up, fascinated with things, and I started explaining things to him. I wrote down notes and, before I knew it, I had basically written this set of guides for him.”
The other inspiration for the book came from the political changes that have taken place in recent years. Jeffers said: “As the world started to change—because the past two years have been very politically interesting and there’s been a lot of negativity that’s been used as fuel—it became more than just a set of guidelines for new parents; it became a set of reminders about the extremely basic things that make us human.”
The book marks a change of direction for Jeffers in terms of both style and message. Although the colour palette used is in line with his previous books, the illustration in Here We Are is “a lot more colourful and detailed” than Jeffers’ usual work. He has used a variety of materials to create the artwork, including digital tools, ink, watercolour and coloured pencil.
His approach to addressing issues in his writing has changed too. He said: “I’ve always tried to avoid being overly moralistic in my books—but this book is unapologetically moralistic. My thinking was, ‘If all of these bizarre and terrible things are happening politically and nobody is speaking out about it, how can I justify not doing anything in years to come when my son asks me?”
Jeffers’ way of working also shifted with his latest book. He said: “For a year and a half I’ve been trying to figure out how to make art in the context of being a father. Evenings and weekends were normally my most productive times in the studio, but now those are the two times I don’t go in to the studio. The book has been about finding new processes with which to work within those confines.”
HarperCollins will release Here We Are globally in hardback on 16th November 2017, although it will be published in the US (via HC UK) by Penguin Young Readers imprint Philomel. Jeffers will tour the UK and the US to promote the book on its publication.
Pictures: © Oliver Jeffers