“Quiet” by Tomie dePaola
I may be overstating, but I believe that Tomie dePaola’s new picture book “Quiet’ is a book that should be shared with every child you know.
And, if I may be so bold, WE need to read this picture book every bit as much as young readers do.
Its message is pretty powerful, yet it’s delivered it in a very soft and subtle way, much as its title reflects.
Before I talk about the book, the reason that I believe all of the above, is the perception that our culture has that constant action and motion are synonymous with positive achievement. It’s become a 24/7 fast forward society in motion.
Busy busy busy is the buzz word and watch word of our current culture and anything less than that is wasted time that we could be DOING something. Hence the multitasking march of our little minions whose lives are jammed packed with activity from morn till night night.
And from that premise, there is little time left for reflection about what we are doing and why. There is little time for both children and adults to just BE.
Now, I am not AGAINST PRODUCTIVITY by any means, but the increasingly frenetic pace of the present culture allows less and less time for observation and self-reflection.
Tomie dePaola, winner of the 2011 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for his significant and lasting contributions to children’s literature over time, a Newbery Honor Award, and other accolades the length of your arm, is wise enough and perceptive enough to view this sea change in our culture and its impact.
And, in his “Quiet’ way, he has done something about it. We need time to ruminate. Tomie’s new picture book gives children and adults both the path and pace to slow down and look around.
An older grandfather takes two children for a leisurely stroll. Take special note that the wisdom of a generation is being passed down so intimately, to the next.
A life lesson is being shared.
Observations are made about the movement of nature all around them:
“My, oh my,” the grandfather said.
Everything is in such a hurry.
The birds are flying so fast.”
And from that one sentence, the girl and boy have immediate observations of their own, as their dog chases a ball and a nearby frog leaps high into a pond.
They make their own conclusions as pale green trees wave their leaves and dragonflys zoom overhead.
And here comes the subtle teachable moment as grandfather points out a nearby vacant bench:
“Let’s us not be so busy.
Why don’t we sit here,
you next to me.”
The sensitivity of a quiet invitation and the momentum of the book slows as does the action. And the children take immediate notice and delight.
As their dog sits snoozing by their side, the girl observes:
“Our dog is tired. I think he is dreaming.”
He’s dreaming as opposed to doing; along with the sitting frog and motionless dragonfly.
And the grandfather says:
Let us be quiet, like all our friends.
Quiet and still.”
And from that invitation, comes a realization by the young girl and boy:
I can think when I’m quiet.
I can see when I’m still.
This observational realization by young ones is achieved so simply, so softly and so subtly in art and narrative that one hopes its message of the value in quiet and stillness, both without and within, is of inestimable value to the human heart.
Tomie de Paola, in his picture book “Quiet,“ has also given a much needed shot in the arm to the beauty and value of elder wisdom being passed down from one generation to another that is very much in need of this one lesson…and probably many others.
Keep passing on the wisdom, Tomie!
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