It’s no secret that I love me some quietness.
Photo by Erik Swanson from theworldinphotons wordpress
The soul-enlarging quietness of a morning at the cabin, where only the haunting call of a loon breaks into absolute stillness.
The companionable quiet of an evening, sipping tea together, each lost in a good book.
from Journey by Aaron Becker
The drowsy peace of a deep snowfall. The deep calm of everyone asleep, breathing, in the tent together.
by Ansel Adams
Most of us need more quiet in our lives, I think we can agree. Today’s books draw us towards stillness. Time alone, to wonder. Wild spaces that restore body and soul.
The Sound of Silence, written by Katrina Goldsaito, illustrated by Julia Kuo
published in 2016 by Little, Brown and Company
Yoshio is a schoolboy living in Tokyo, a city swirling with sounds “like a symphony hall.” Car horns and motors, rain drops, footsteps, and peoplepeoplepeople surround him.
One distinctive sound attracts him — the “twangy and tinkling” notes plucked by a koto player. What might this elderly sensei’s favorite sound be, Yoshio wonders. Her answer is mystifying: the sound of ma, of silence.
Yoshio is suddenly more aware of sound than ever, as he searches for silence. In the midst of his bustling, beautiful world, where might he find it?
This thoughtful exploration of sound and silence is accompanied by gorgeous, vibrant illustrations set in contemporary Japan. References to Jiro’s sushi, Pokemon, corporate Tokyo, the architecture and style of modern Japan masterfully usher us into Yohio’s world.
An afterword extends the conversation about the intriguing Japanese concept of ma. It’s a stunning offering for ages 5 to adult, and an excellent way to increase awareness of the loveliness of silence.
A Riot of Quiet, written by Virginia Sicotte, illustrated by Edward Ardizzone
published in 1969 by Holt, Rinehart and Winston
I discovered several of today’s titles by digging back a few decades. This beauty, illustrated by Ardizzone, was written by the mother of ten children! No wonder she extolled the virtues of quietness!
The lyrical text consists of a mother’s words as she coaxes her little one to sleep. “Listen, listen,” she says, and begins to list all manner of unusually quiet sounds for her child to consider, such as “a mouse licking flour in a London tower; a minute turning into another hour.” Even “an oyster pouting.”
The small size of the book, the old-fashioned two-color illustrations, and Ardizzone’s magnificent line and proportion all work together to create a soporific effect. Delightful, if you can get ahold of it, for ages 18 months and older.
All Alone, written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes
published in 1981 by Greenwillow Books
One of my favorite Frog and Toad stories is “Alone” from Days with Frog and Toad, in which Frog happily plunks down on a spit of an island in order to spend some time alone, leaving Toad in a complete panic. Why in the world would Frog want to be alone? There must be something terribly amiss, thinks Toad!
from Days with Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel
But, no. Frog was just so happy that day, he wanted to be alone so he could “think about how fine everything is.”
The boy in this very quiet story likes to be alone sometimes, too. It gives him the chance to hear more and see more of what’s around him — trees breathing in the wind, roots a-tangle across the earth. He spends time imagining. Asking himself unanswerable questions. Thinking. Wondering.
There is enormous strength and possibility in all of that, right? Time alone is a treasure for us and our children. The illustrations here do not look much like Henkes’ more recent work. They are sketchy and pencil-soft and pensive. It’s a lovely book, again in a smallish size, for ages 2 and up.
Do You Hear What I Hear? written and illustrated by Helen Borten
originally published in 1960; this edition published in 2016 by Flying Eye Books
Thanks to Flying Eye Books, we’ve got this gem back in print.
The graphic sensibility alone makes it a prize! I wish I could show you every page!
Attend to sounds. They are everywhere. And “different kinds of sounds make me feel different ways.” Loud goes with fierce and explosive. Quiet can be cheerful, mysterious, drowsy.
There are sounds “so quiet you can’t hear them at all.” Far off sounds. Powerful sounds. Sharp, low, grumbling, haunting, and joyful sounds. I love the language Borten uses, the keen, descriptive, sensory language, drawing us to consider, compare, become more aware.
One has to be quiet, to hear all of this. A lovely vintage read for ages 2 and up.
The Quiet Noisy Book, written by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrations by Leonard Weisgard
originally published in 1950; this edition 1993 by Harpercollins Children’s Books
These two masters of children’s literature and illustration teamed up over 60 years ago to produce this exquisite work of wondering, imagination, and quiet joy.
Muffin, a wee pup, has been soundly sleeping all night long, but “quietly something woke him up. A very quiet noise. What could it be?”
Was it a bee wondering? Was it a skyscraper scraping the sky? Was it — oh mercy me! — a cow putting on her petticoat?
Each question splashes across the pages in Weisgard’s triumphant graphic genius as our curiosity about that sound grows and grows. Such a quiet sound. “As quiet as someone eating current jelly.” That quiet. What could it be?
Perfectly pitched for curious minds, ages 18 months and older, it’s a glorious vintage read.
Finding Wild, written by Megan Wagner Lloyd, pictures by Abigail Halpin
published in 2016 by Alfred A. Knopf
Finally, this exuberant celebration of wilderness.
I love the restorative power of untrammeled wilderness. As children’s lives grow increasingly busy and increasingly restricted due to concerns over security, there is an urgent need, it seems to me, for opportunity to breathe tree-filled air, run freely, exert legs on unpaved paths, stick fingers in sap, pick burrs off wool socks, follow the beckoning shush of a cascade, see stars, do nothing.
The beauty and glory and wildness of untamed outdoorsness is sung in these pages as two kids search for wild.
What is it? Where is it? Can they find wild, even in the city? Lovely language accompanied by tender, joyful illustration work. Get inspired to search for wild with ages 3 and up.