What are the plans for our future

by Corinna Norrick-Rühl

After the great picture book Here we are. Guide to Life on Earth Oliver Jeffers presents a book that reflects the path and perspective of a young father in a similar way and with a similar design. With his daughter Mari he experiences in What we build Adventure, resolves conflicts, and finds comfort and warmth.

Jeffers, Oliver (text / illustration):
What we build. Plans for our future.

Translated from the English by Anna Schaub.
North-South, Zurich, 2021.
48 pages. € 16.00
ISBN 978-3-314-10563-0.
Recommended for ages 3 and up.


First the hands are placed on the table: the small hands of Jeffer's daughter Mari on the left - his larger, older hands on the right. The book begins with the question "What do we want to build, you and me?" (o.S.) Because that's what it's all about: what can fathers and daughters do together? The answer is: anything that is fun. Father and daughter get started, first they work and a house is built. This is followed by creative ideas and journeys in fantasy worlds. Holes are dug and fortresses defended. This is where colorful figures come into play that are also in Here we are there were: a blue pirate, a green witch, a pink Viking, a purple doctor. If there is a quarrel, then you reconcile afterwards at a round table. Jeffers and his daughter build a road to the moon to hang up a hammock and rest. At the end of the day, both of them fall asleep by the campfire, where colorful figures come from Here we are are there. The book ends with another top view of the father and daughter's hands: this time, however, the hands are on top of each other. In the English original, the subtitle is a little more precise: "Plans for our together future ".


The previous band Here we are has sold over 100,000 times in German-speaking countries alone, he is disarmingly honest and direct, does not shy away from the big questions of climate change, from topics such as war and peace, but explains everything as if for a newborn child. Due to the similar design and color scheme as well as the seemingly similar title, readers expect a continuation of Here we are.

This is also successful overall, because the picture book is - as parents and children are used to from Oliver Jeffers - beautifully designed and illustrated. The message of togetherness and shared experience arrives clearly. Viewing the adventurous fantasy worlds with the many small details can and will take a lot of time and provide beautiful impulses for the children to play freely. It is particularly gratifying that the connection between father and daughter is so clearly brought to the fore here. By building and tinkering together and the fantasy worlds shown, gender clichés are called into question - this is (unfortunately) to be emphasized positively in 2021!

However, if you have the German and English original editions, you will notice that the text in the original harmonizes better overall. In it Jeffers works very strongly with the word "build", which is prominent in the title (What we'll build). Linguistically, the book appears much more coherent in English. This also works very well because there are many English idioms with the word "build" such as "We'll build a fire" (o.S.). These must be bypassed in German. In the translation, the rhyme form was also retained, which is so typical for English-language picture books, but can sometimes sound a bit wanted in German. The book would certainly have benefited from breaking away a little further from the original text.


Oliver Jeffers fans will enjoy reading this book as much as any of his other books. The unmistakable, rich colors and his detailed style make reading aloud and reading to one another a pleasure again and again. The book is suitable for children from three years of age. It could be used in kindergarten, for example, to develop and implement ideas in a "toy-free time". Readers can be curious whether Oliver Jeffers will design other books in this way - there are certainly still some adventures waiting for father Oliver, son Harland and daughter Mari!

First publication: 02/03/2021