If We Were Gone

Imagining the World without People

  • Interest Level: Kindergarten - Grade 4
  • Reading Level: Grade 1

Water, air, sunlight, plants . . . we need these elements to live in this world. But does the world need us? And what would happen to the world if humans were gone? This is the premise of a thought-provoking picture book from John Coy. His insightful text explores how nature would reclaim the planet, accompanied by Natalie Capannelli’s gorgeous watercolor illustrations. Back matter gives further context and discusses what kids (and all of us) can do to truly help our planet.

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Interest Level Kindergarten - Grade 4
Reading Level Grade 1
Genre Picture Books, Social Studies
Category 5 Kinds of Nonfiction, 5KN: Expository Literature
Copyright 2020
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint Millbrook Press ™
Language English
Number of Pages 32
Publication Date 2020-03-03
Text Type Informational/Explanatory
BISACS JNF051080, JNF065000, JNF037020
Dewey 304.2
Graphics Full-color illustrations
Dimensions 9.25 x 11
Lexile 500
Guided Reading Level N
Features Author/Illustrator biography, Awards, Bibliography/further reading, Original artwork, and Reviewed

Author: John Coy

John Coy is the author of young adult novels, the 4 for 4 middle-grade series, and nonfiction and fiction picture books including Hoop Genius, Game Changer, Their Great Gift, Dads, If We Were Gone, and Where We Come From. He has received numerous awards for his work including a Marion Vannett Ridgway Award, a Charlotte Zolotow Honor, a Bank Street College Best Book of the Year, and the Burr/Warzalla Award for Distinguished Achievement in Children's Literature. John lives by the Mississippi River in Minneapolis.

Illustrator: Natalie Capannelli

Natalie Capannelli is an artist, illustrator, and freelance baker. She has an MFA from Pratt Institute and loves tending to plants and traveling the world. When not traveling, Natalie lives in Brooklyn, New York. If We Were Gone is her debut picture book. www.natcap.space


  • Green Earth Book Award, Long-listed, 2021


Publishers Weekly

“In this disturbingly beautiful dystopian meditation, Coy uses direct and dreamy language, encouraging readers to imagine a world without humans.”—Publishers Weekly

School Library Journal

“The text and Capannelli’s double-page watercolor spreads work together to paint a vivid picture of the harm unleashed on the world by humans . . .”—School Library Journal

Denis Hayes

“It’s remarkably easy to imagine the earth without people, but not vice versa. John Coy makes a simple, compelling case for protecting our home planet.”—Denis Hayes, national coordinator of the first Earth Day and environmental advocate