Book Review: The Skies Above My Eyes, by Charlotte Guillain

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Next time you’re outside, look up! What can you spot? A plane? Clouds? Perhaps some birds or insects? It might not look like it, but there’s a lot going on up there—so much more than we can see.

New children’s picture book The Skies Above My Eyes takes readers on an imagined trip through the layers of our atmosphere, out to the farthest reaches of the galaxy and then back again. Along the way there are pointers to some of the things, both visible and out of sight, that fill the mysterious regions far beyond terra firma. Our journey begins down on the street as a young girl wonders about the world above her. She invites us to gaze skywards, and we drift beyond the skyscrapers, dodging aircraft as we head out to space. It’s a wild and interesting ride!

There’s plenty of detail and lots to ponder in Charlotte Guillain’s text and the illustrations by Yuval Zommer. A little dog watches his master launch a paper plane from their apartment window. As it catches the breeze it flies past an umbrella that’s been swept up past the windows of the high-rise building next door, past the people working in their offices and the window cleaners suspended on their scaffold.

Sailing through the stratosphere, we reach the ozone layer and learn about the weather balloons that send information back to the scientists on Earth. We hop from satellites to the International Space Station, learning the difference between cosmonauts and astronauts and hearing about the work they do in space. There’s an introduction to the planets of the Solar System, comets, asteroids and the lights that fill the southern and northern skies.

Heading back down to solid ground, slipping through the jet stream to join the eagles soaring in the sky above Africa, we spot cloud formations, meet skydivers and cruise past hang gliders before settling gently on the ground. Now it’s time to quietly observe the airborne creatures of the natural world, marvelling at a universe that’s full of energy and life.

Charlotte Guillain writes fiction and non-fiction for children. The Skies Above My Eyes is her follow-up to The Street Beneath My Feet, a look at the underground world. The two books are collaborations with illustrator Yuval Zommer, a graduate of London’s Royal College of Art who has worked in illustration for advertising as well as children’s literature. Guillain and Zommer both live and work in the UK.

The Street Beneath My Feet and The Skies Above My Eyes each feature the same concertina format. The double-sided foldout book, made from sturdy cardboard, opens to form a huge picture, 2.5 metres long—a presentation style that perfectly captures the subject matter and allows the illustrations to connect sections of text effectively. There’s also a chart at the back that shows the distances between the areas depicted.

The Skies Above My Eyes is a fun, informative and well-designed book that will hold the attention of young readers and the adults who read alongside them.

Reviewed by: Jo Vabolis
Twitter: @JoVabolis

Rating out of 10: 10

Released by: Quarto Knows and distributed through Allen and Unwin NZ
Released: July 2018
RRP: Approximately AU$30

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The Skies Above My Eyes is a fun, informative and well-designed book that will hold the attention of young readers and the adults who read alongside them.

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