Up Above and Down Below by Paloma Valdivia

A lovely, thoughtful story by Paloma Valdivia has arrived at a particularly fitting time for our world. ‘Up Above and Down Below’ centers around the idea that people are different, but while they may be strange to you, you are strange to them. In the end it all boils down to the fact that no matter how opposite people can be, there are still plenty of commonalities for us to embrace.

up above and down below by paloma valdivia

What’s It ‘Up Above and Down Below’ About?

In the world, there are different kinds of people” the book starts out “Some live up above and some live down below.”  With that simple layout, the rest of the book proceeds to show us all the ways that the people up above are different from the people down below and vice versa. Valvidia displays these differences by embracing total absurdity in her illustrations-which doesn’t feel like a far cry from reality at times. The people up above imagine the people on the bottom as being upside down, with children growing enormous mustaches and adults toting the face and ears of a bunny. On the contrary, those on the bottom picture the ones above walking large birds (that oddly look like mimes) instead of dogs, or sprouting antlers and lacking arms.  Essentially neither the folks up or down really know the truth, which is that they’re worlds are really quite similar-with a few small exceptions like it being fall below when it is spring above, or planting time above but harvest time below.

“Now and then, they all dream of flying” one of the last pages begins to wrap up “But then…/who is from up above, and who is from down below?” It ends then, packing a huge part of its theme into a final sentence that quietly notes that than everyone could look at the world the other way around. Subtle as it sounds, readers get the message loud and clear.

inside book

Where Is Up? Where Is Down?

Although a vague reference to the Southern and Northern hemispheres is hinted at, Valdivia doesn’t really define anywhere in mind in terms of where up is, or down.  The hemispherical divide is more of a way to simplify the message youngsters will take away from the book, something to make it more tangible to them.


The illustrations are quite unique not only in style, but in how they are utilized in the story. On one page talking about ‘the ones up above’ the words and pictures will be “right” side up, whilst the opposite page talking about ‘the ones down below’ will look upside down-until you turn the book around, that is. This really drives home the message of the book, as it makes it very obvious that neither one way or the other is better or more ‘normal.’

SEE ALSO: Dinosoaring by Deb Lund

Overall Opinion

I know some folks who live in Australia (I am from Minnesota), and we’re almost literally on opposite ends of the earth. In High School the oh-so-mature 15 year old me would chuckle and tell them they were upside down (they insisted, of course, that we were the ones upside down) and never missed an opportunity to ask them something like “does the toilet water actually go counter-clockwise?” I was simply fascinated by them, as they were by me (the kids that is) even though we were teenagers.

The world is vast and, despite our impressive means of communication, we remain somewhat blind to people and customs outside of our own. I enjoyed and recommend ‘Up Above and Down Below” not only in the sense that it was a charming and entertaining children’s book, but also because it spread a message that is mightily important-to accept the differences between people, embrace what we have in common, and realize that there really is no up or down, right or wrong, or weird or normal-regardless, may I add, of which direction your toilet water may go.

buy it

Up Above and Down Below by Paloma Valdivia.

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