Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Turning the Pages in Anticipation Quiet

One of the many benefits of having a dog as a member of your family, is you are outside when no one else is.  Late at night or early in the morning amazing things can be seen and heard.  Without any noise, within the silence, you gain a unique sense of seeing and hearing, noticing what you might otherwise have missed.

With the demands of modern day living it's hard to gain this perspective especially when the December holiday season begins in earnest.  The talented collaboration of author Deborah Underwood and illustrator Renata Liwska who brought to readers The Quiet Book (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, April 12, 2010) and The Loud Book (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, April 4, 2011) have created another title in the series, The Christmas Quiet Book (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, October 16, 2012).  When you stop and really listen, you are truly surrounded by quiet.

Christmas is a quiet time:
Mysterious bundles quiet

With a sense of hope running high, who can blame the younger guys and gals from sneaking a peek despite running the risk of being discovered.  No matter the age who has not listened intently, fingers crossed, for those magical words, school is cancelled due to snow.  Have you ever noticed how a child layered in snow clothes makes little or no sound except for the swish, swish of nylon on nylon?

Listen, can you hear? There is quiet playing in the snow, sipping hot drinks, watching holiday performances, decorating, baking, skating, children's Christmas plays, breathing the crisp air, nighttime walks, activities in front of a cozy fire, writing, wishing and yes, even in joy.  Some days more than others, sometimes happy, sometimes sad, the stillness is there.

With the exception of the first page Deborah Underwood uses a minimal amount of words preceding quiet, a single phrase for each page, some linking together.  She truly has a gift for capturing the exact moment of quiet which may come before or after a less than silent event.  It's as if she's gathered all her childhood memories, chosen the most memorable for their hush factor and shared them with her readers.

Forgotten line quiet
Helpful whisper quiet

Drawn in pencil then colored digitally, the illustrations of Renata Liwska are charming.  The front and back jacket when opened show a line of those adorable characters from the two previous books joined together as they unwind a string of colored Christmas lights against a backdrop of dusty blue sky peppered with snowflakes.  The front and back covers done in the same blue have a single figure on each.  The front cover shows a softly-colored, brown bunny wrapping a gift; the back has another similar bunny with a hair bow opening the same present which happens to be a copy of The Loud Book.

It's in the attention given to detail that Liwska draws in her readers.  On the title page a rabbit is hanging an ornament on the second "o" in Book, the owl skating across the ice has special shaped mittens for her wing tips with the string running across her back hooking them together.  There is also a feeling of nostalgia in her drawings; when picturing the radio with two bunnies listening for the snow day news, it is the old box kind with a red line going across the station numbers, a large red dial on the front.

As in the previous two books Liwska has selected a muted color palette replete with earth tones with spots of color for accents, using red on nearly every page for added warmth.  Her creatures of forest and field have never been more endearing.  To great effect she again shifts (as she did in The Loud Book) perspective as all the animals gather around the decorated Christmas tree.  We see them as if we are looking down upon the scene.

One of my favorite pictures is of the two rabbits in front of the fireplace, stockings hung, lighted candles on the mantle.  Both have fallen asleep reading, the one in a chair, the other lying on the floor.  The characters from the open book on the floor are walking off the pages.  Perfectly precious.

The Christmas Quiet Book written by Deborah Underwood with illustrations by Renata Liwska is a gentle gem.  As a read aloud or one on one this is cozy and quiet from cover to cover.  As with the other titles, it is sure to generate a conversation about other kinds of quiet.

Links to the author and illustrator websites are embedded in their names.  Here is a link to a wonderful page created by the publisher full of information about both the author and illustrator, additional artwork, plenty of extras and ....

Christmas Quiet Kit