Monday, October 22, 2018

People - Peter Spier (author and illustrator)

Summary: A celebration of diverse world cultures from the brilliant Peter Spier, one of the most beloved children’s illustrators of the last fifty years. In this breathtaking tour around the world, young readers can pore over the many details that make each country and culture unique and special—illuminated by Spier’s detailed and witty illustrations of festivals and holidays, foods, religions, homes, pets, and clothing. In print since 1980, this classic, boundary-pushing book is a must-have in today’s global age—a tribute to the ways in which we as the world’s citizens are at once both different and the same.  (Summary from - Image from

My Review:  People is remarkable children’s book and the winner of the 1980 Christopher Medal, an award given to books and other forms of media that affirm the highest values of the human spirit.  And you know what?  It does exactly that. 

People is simply drawn, but visually stunning with plenty of color and detail to interest even the most grown-up eye.  In a few short, but engaging pages, it manages to both highlight and celebrate the varied cultures of the world and the differences (and similarities) among all people.  Without straight up plagiarizing the book, I’d like to give you a sense of what to expect so I’m going to summarize the book in my own words: 

Basically, each person born on the earth is unique.  We may have all started as babies but we come in all sizes, shapes, and colors.  We live in different places, in a variety of homes, with different clothing, food, languages, hairstyles, religions, jobs, and ways we like to spend our time.  Most pages focus on one or two specific ways in which we might be different and provides drawings to illustrate those differences.  For example, there are pages dedicated to drawings of different types homes, styles of dress, written languages, physical characteristics, food, pets, jobs, and games from around the world.  

All of the above is certainly true and thoroughly engaging, but the most important part comes towards the end, where the author reminds the reader that what seems normal to us might seem strange to someone else. Or what seems ugly to us, might be beautiful to someone else.  He stresses (without being preachy) that we don’t need to be afraid of one another or hate someone because they don’t look the way we do, believe the things we do, or behave the way we think they should.  In his words, a world without differences would be “dreadfully dull.”  Our differences don’t have to define or separate us; in fact, they what makes this world and its people so very beautiful.    

My Rating: 5 unique & beautiful stars

For the sensitive reader:  There is a small drawing of two naked people from behind. It's a safe assumption that they are Adam and Eve but I didn't feel this book was particularly inclined towards any particular faith.  One line of the book talks about how ultimately everyone dies and is accompanied by the illustration of an open grave, shovel, and headstone.  A little morbid, but I didn’t find it offensive. 

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