This Thing Called Life – Perfect Picture Book Friday

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Title: This Thing Called Life

Author & Illustrator: Christian Borstlap

Publisher: Prestel Verlag, Germany, 2020

Original Title: A Propos de la Vie

Ages: 5-8

56 pages.

Genre: Nonfiction

Themes: life, death, philosophy, connection


Long, long ago, before little white wires started growing out of our ears.


From the smallest specks of life to the largest creatures, this engaging picture book shows the
many shapes and forms life takes all around us.

What is life? It’s constantly moving, growing, reproducing, and dying. It’s happening now, all the time, and it’s everywhere around us. From little helicopter seed pods that float through the air to blue whales in the ocean, the world is filled with all different types of odd and familiar kinds of life. 

Why I like this book:

The creator does not shy away from complex and even abstract terms, like perception, species, but I believe the quirky illustrations will connect kids to the complex concepts that can sometimes be hard to put into words. I would say the audience needs to be at least 5 to really launch into the discussion that the pages clearly promote.

It has a very European feel to the philosophical and honest nature of the text, where themes like survival and fairness and aborded. The whimsy of the illustrations and connectedness of all living things draws the reader in. The visual humor balances the somewhat heavy themes. While most of the creatures are imaginary animals (furry, spiky, feathery, hungry, scared), yet they all depict real things that organisms must do to survive and thrive. This is not a warm fuzzy picture book, but one I believe will be a great asset to story time and the many questioning kids in our classrooms.


Great Earth Day choice to discuss connectedness of all living things.

Each week a group of bloggers reviews picture books we feel would make great educational reads. To help teachers, caregivers and parents, we have included resources and/or activities with each of our reviews. A complete list of the thousands of books we have reviewed can be found sorted alphabetically and by topics, here on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

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6 Responses to This Thing Called Life – Perfect Picture Book Friday

  1. Jilanne Hoffmann says:

    This looks fabulous, Joanna! I do have a question about what you mean by “aborded.” I was trying to suss out the meaning in context, but am not sure. I love the illustrations, and the fact that it’s not necessarily a warm, fuzzy book. Pretty much like our natural world, if you think about it, yes? It can be glorious and ugly, miraculous and horrifying in the same breath. I’ll see if I can find this. Prestel Verlag always makes books with such fabulous artists. Thanks for the rec!

  2. Joanna says:

    Hahaha, I am laughing at myself as I realize I have used an anglicized French word! 🙂 That should read “approached.”

  3. MUST check it out! Thanks!

  4. Joanna, you’ve found another fascinating book! I’ll have to see if my library has it or will order it. Thanks.

  5. what wonderful illustrations!

  6. What a deep theme, but done with humor. And it is about nature — winning combination. Love the illustrations you shared.

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