From the Shelf
Beowulf Sheehan: Putting Faces to Names
Authors are unlikely to be splashing the covers of magazines you'd see in the dentist's office. They're also rarely on television, except the occasional spot on shows like Late Night with Seth Meyers. As a result, even uber-famous writers like Margaret Atwood and John Irving don't have nearly the same face-recognition as your Beyoncés and various Hemsworths.
So, before you reach the end of this column, play a little game with me--in the spirit of the Highlights magazines I devoured in my dentist's office as a kid. Take a look at the four portraits here and see if you can name each author. The answers are below, but take your time. Test yourself.
The avid reader can probably name a handful of authors by portrait alone. New York photographer Beowulf Sheehan gives us a chance to learn a few more with his stunning photos in Author: The Portraits of Beowulf Sheehan (Black Dog & Leventhal, $40). Here are Booker Award winners and household names alongside those whose work may have slipped under your radar until now.
But bibliophiles won't be the only ones interested in this gorgeous collection. The portraits are striking specimens of an exceptional photographic eye. I've been flipping through this book for weeks now, and I sometimes forget that this severe gaze or that whimsical grin belongs to an accomplished writer, rather than an exquisite model chosen for look alone. Both a book lover's hall of fame and a captivating array of artistic genius, Author is a standout.
So, can you name all four? --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness
In this Issue...
by Jon Agee
A young knight who believes that a brick wall will keep out the enemy is in for a surprise--and for rethinking who the enemy is.
by Lane Moore
Essays on combating loneliness and confronting childhood demons by accomplished comedian, writer, singer and actor Lane Moore.
by Jonathan Lethem
An unusual detective agrees to help locate a missing teenage girl and finds himself and his client in the midst of a tribal war in the Mojave Desert.
Review by Subjects:
From Village Books
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Made-Up Gifts for Writers
Electric Lit unwrapped "10 perfect writer gifts we just made up."
Quirk Books imagined "conversations between lit characters and Lyft drivers."
CrimeReads investigated "8 mysteries featuring independent bookstores."
Buzzfeed checked out "17 things you didn't know about libraries, told to you by librarians."
Author Christopher Harding chose his "top 10 books about Japan" for the Guardian.
Rediscover: Gorky Park
Mystery writer Martin Cruz Smith, best known for his novels with Russian detective Arkady Renko, is set to receive a Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America. Smith, son of a jazz musician father and Amerindian activist mother, turned from journalism to fiction in the early '70s. Canto for a Gypsy, Smith's second novel with New York art dealer/gypsy Roman Grey, was nominated for an Edgar. Smith's first breakthrough came with Nightwing (1977), which he helped adapt into a film. Smith has also written other series and numerous standalones under multiple pen names.
Gorky Park (1981), Smith's first thriller with Arkady Renko, became a major bestseller. Set in the Soviet Union, Gorky Park follows a chief investigator for the Moscow militsiya on a case involving three bodies discovered in the titular amusement park. Renko is often an ill-fit for his society, branded with "Pathoheterodoxy Syndrome," a fictional mental illness similar in some respects to the "sluggish schizophrenia" diagnosis used on some real-life Soviet dissidents. Renko has appeared in seven more titles, which chronicle the tumultuous recent decades of Russian history as much as Renko's cases. His most recent appearance is Tatiana (2013). Smith's latest novel, The Girl from Venice, is available from Simon & Schuster, which has also recently reprinted Gorky Park ($16, 9781501177965). --Tobias Mutter
The Writer's Life
Reading with... Casey Gerald
|photo: Hallo Smith|
Casey Gerald grew up in Oak Cliff, Tex., and went to Yale, where he majored in political science and played varsity football. After receiving an MBA from Harvard Business School, he cofounded MBAs Across America. He's the author of There Will Be No Miracles Here (Riverhead, October 2), a memoir that stands the American Dream narrative on its head.
On your nightstand now:
Don't hate me, but I'm reading my own book right now--I sleep with it next to me--because it's my first book and it is about to be released and it's all still surreal.
Favorite book when you were a child:
The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner. It taught me that, sometimes, it doesn't matter what you have--all that matters is what you're trying to do.
Your top five authors:
Clarice Lispector, Jean Genet, Toni Morrison, David & the other folks who wrote Psalms and Robert Caro.
Book you've faked reading:
I didn't start reading until I was nearly 23 years old. Not that I couldn't; just didn't. It is liberating to tell that truth and not be ashamed, because I never feel the need to fake-read anything. As I catch up on all the "classics," I realize that, often--as with Hemingway--I haven't missed much.
Book you're an evangelist for:
I have probably bought more copies of Marianne Williamson's A Return to Love for people than any other book. The ways my generation was taught to live, love, believe and work have failed, and this book has helped me and many of my peers see another way and find a path toward healing.
Book you've bought for the cover:
The latest New Directions edition of The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa. It just blew me away. Can't say the same for the actual book, only because I put it down a few pages in, for some reason I can't remember.
Book you hid from your parents:
I didn't have to hide things from my parents because, by my teenage years, they weren't around.
Book that changed your life:
Giovanni's Room. I read it when I was 24, and there was no turning back after this line: "People can't, unhappily, invent their mooring posts, their lovers and their friends, anymore than they can invent their parents. Life gives these and also takes them away and the great difficulty is to say Yes to life."
Favorite line from a book:
Five books you'll never part with:
As Maya Angelou said, I've never seen a hearse with a hitch. So I'll part with everything, happily. But five books I will cherish until then:
The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín--it taught me so much about confession, and about the radical, subversive result of giving an old story to a new person who had, previously, been silenced.
Good Times by Lucille Clifton. A poem like "won't you celebrate with me" can help me through any dark time: "come celebrate/ with me that everyday/ something has tried to kill me/ and has failed."
Cruising Utopia by José Esteban Muñoz. I was reading this book when I was informed that a dear friend had taken his life. Muñoz writes: "This world is not enough." His book is an attempt to find a way to live, anyhow.
On the Road by Jack Kerouac. I keep trying to accept all the ways in which this novel is second-rate and/or problematic, but I feel about it the way I feel about my first love--the impact on me was just too great to save a lot of space for legitimate criticism.
Journal of Albion Moonlight by Kenneth Patchen. Strangest and, perhaps, greatest book I've ever read. I'll leave it at that.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
On the Road, for sure. In part because I would also, in this scenario, be 23 and a lot less tired.
All the Lives We Never Lived
by Anuradha Roy
All the Lives We Never Lived by Man Booker nominee Anuradha Roy (Sleeping on Jupiter) centers on the idea that what one values in life may never be truly translatable, even to a loved one. Myshkin, the main narrator, is abandoned by his mother at the age of nine, never understanding why she left or what she gave up by disappearing. The present day of the book takes place in 1992, when Myshkin looks back on his childhood 60 years earlier. With the arrival of lost letters from his mother, he decides to upend the comfortable distance he's kept from her betrayal and discover what actually happened after her departure. But with each revelation, old memories are cast in strange new lights, and his settled present becomes ever-more fragile.
His mother is Gayatri, a talented painter who is married off as a teenager when her father dies. Having traveled with her father from their native India to places like Bali, she is slowly rubbed raw by this forced domestic life, even with the birth of Myshkin and the support of neighbors in the small town where she and her husband live. When she finally leaves, disappearing one afternoon with a European artist she met years before, she sets off to become the painter she always wished to be.
Roy plumbs the idea that by re-examining his mother, Myshkin has the opportunity to understand better why he lives as he does, and why his parents and others around him took such different roads. In All the Lives We Never Lived, small moments of connection ultimately prove to be the most profound. --Noah Cruickshank, adult engagement manager, the Field Museum, Chicago, Ill.
Discover: Anuradha Roy's All the Lives We Never Lived paints a thoughtful portrait of family and freedom.
by Dror Burstein , trans. by Gabriel Levin
In modern-day Jerusalem, an aspiring poet named Jeremiah receives the rudest review any writer can get: a prominent critic smashes a computer keyboard over his head. That violent opening is but a hint of the fireworks to come in Israeli novelist Dror Burstein's Muck, a wildly imaginative retelling of the biblical book of Jeremiah.
In the sixth century BCE, the prophet foretold the destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar and the exile of the Jewish people to Babylon, one that lasted nearly 70 years. Instead of simply updating this well-known tale to the present, Burstein's conceit is to create a clever mashup of events in the ancient kingdom of Judah and contemporary Israel.
The realization of what Burstein (Netanya) is up to doesn't dawn all at once. But then references to a reigning monarch named Jehoiakim and long-dead kingdoms like Moab and Phoenicia insinuate their way into the narrative. Muck is also a cautionary tale about the perpetual quality of Middle East conflict, reflected in a conference in which Babylon's vassal states struggle to carve up the map as they contemplate what will happen when their dream of overthrowing their oppressor with Egypt's aid comes true.
And for anyone who wonders what it would be like to be granted the gift of prophecy, Burstein's Jeremiah hardly offers an encouraging role model. His apocalyptic message, delivered in a cafe among his fellow poets, garners him nothing but ridicule. Though we might wish for a more generous treatment, Burstein's energetic novel, to its credit, remains true to the spirit of its source material until the bitter end. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer
Discover: Dror Burstein blends the stories of ancient and modern Israel in a vibrant retelling of the book of Jeremiah.
Mystery & Thriller
The Feral Detective
by Jonathan Lethem
Jonathan Lethem (Lucky Alan; Motherless Brooklyn) turns the traditional private eye novel inside out. Still told in first person, The Feral Detective isn't narrated by the investigator, Charles Heist, but rather by his client, Phoebe Siegler.
After abruptly leaving her job, Phoebe agrees to search for her friend's missing teenage daughter, Arabella. After being referred to Heist, Phoebe isn't quite prepared for what she finds when she meets the detective with the strange nickname. In his desk drawer is an ailing opossum named Jean and in the armoire a young girl named Melinda who "isn't much for moms and dads." Nevertheless, Heist agrees to make some inquiries about Arabella. Accompanied by his three dogs, he takes Phoebe to a homeless community in a drainpipe, to the Buddhist Zendo on Baldy Mountain and to the Mojave Desert, where they encounter two groups living off the grid and in the midst of a violent conflict. Finding Arabella and returning all humans and canines safely back to civilization may be easier said than done.
Lethem crafts a complex plot with swift momentum as well as a meticulous sense of place. He envelops his readers in the sights, sounds and smells of The Feral Detective's environs. In his characters, Lethem creates endless depth. Phoebe's sarcasm functions as a defense mechanism in a world she's no longer able to comprehend. Heist, on the other hand, comprehends his world only too well and finds comfort in silence. An odd pairing who ultimately fit perfectly together. Dark, funny, brutal, honest, The Feral Detective delivers an engrossing mystery written with fortitude and beauty. --Jen Forbus, freelancer
Discover: An unusual detective agrees to help locate a missing teenage girl and finds himself and his client in the midst of a tribal war in the Mojave Desert.
by Deborah Harkness
A fun and lusty look at immortality, Time's Convert by Deborah Harkness adds another dimension to her popular All Souls trilogy by focusing on Marcus de Clermont, the "son" of the trilogy's vampiric protagonist, Matthew. Marcus falls in love with a human woman, Phoebe, who agrees to become a vampire to live with him forever. Whisked off to undergo this change, she begins the sometimes terrifying process of becoming immortal.
Marcus, meanwhile, begins bunking with Matthew at the scenic French chateau he shares with Diana (the series' other hero, a witch and mother to two small children with growing magical powers). Here the details of his life are slowly revealed, from his birth in colonial America to his fateful meeting with Matthew in New Orleans.
Fans of the All Souls trilogy will be delighted with this new installment, continuing Diana and Matthew's story while providing deeper context for Marcus's behavior and a new era to explore. Harkness, a historian, knows how to bring out previous time periods with vivid authenticity, and her romantic scenes are steamy as ever. But those who are unfamiliar with Harkness's work should start with the trilogy itself. There are far too many characters and plotlines to juggle, and readers may well get confused without the proper context from previous books. Still, fans of Harkness and historical fantasy will have plenty of fun with Time's Convert. --Noah Cruickshank, adult engagement manager, the Field Museum, Chicago, Ill.
Discover: Time's Convert adds a new dimension to Deborah Harkness's All Souls Trilogy.
The Collector's Apprentice
by B.A. Shapiro
Vivienne Gregsby, an art collector's apprentice, is on trial for the murder of her boss at the outset of B.A. Shapiro's eighth novel. Things don't look good for Vivienne, but Shapiro (The Muralist) teases the captivating climax from suspenseful alternating timelines leading to 1928 and the Pennsylvania courtroom.
Bold, duplicitous Vivienne seems an unlikable heroine. At 19, she fled her Brussels home for Paris, adopting a new name and life. She had little choice, since her family disowned her after her dashing fiancé, George, swindled them out of their assets, assuming Vivienne (then Paulien) was his accomplice. Pledging revenge and the reclamation of her name--as well as the paintings her family was forced to sell--Vivienne's knowledge of modern art emboldens her to apply for a job as assistant to American art collector Edwin Bradley. With Edwin, she has entrée into Paris society and is soon rubbing elbows with Gertrude Stein, Henri Matisse and more. Edwin's reliance on Vivienne as his wise and circumspect adviser earns her trips to Philadelphia, where she soon settles, curating the collection filling his private museum. Meanwhile George lurks, with an insatiable desire for Vivienne and nefarious schemes to defraud others as he did her family.
Did George lure Vivienne into his web of deceit, leading her to the trial? Did she dupe him, and is his downfall imminent? In prose lush with post-impressionist art history, Shapiro's intriguing novel presents a heroine either evil or sympathetic--until the very end. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco
Discover: In an intriguing novel of art, greed and revenge, an art collector's apprentice is either duplicitous or sympathetic, and the mystery is sustained until the end.
Food & Wine
Kitchen Yarns: Notes on Life, Love, and Food
by Ann Hood
The food memoir is a common literary recipe, sating appetites for sustenance as well as story, as reliable a pairing as grilled cheese and tomato soup. Enter a new classic in the larder: Kitchen Yarns: Notes on Life, Love and Food by the versatile Ann Hood (The Book That Matters Most).
Like the writing of M.F.K. Fisher, which Hood cites, Hood's prose packs a wallop in these nearly 30 essays. She chronicles her time as a young girl in a large, loving Italian family; a teen model for a department store; a TWA flight attendant; and a longtime writer, partner, mother, cook and knitter.
Each essay mixes memories with meditations. Woven into the mélange are recipes for what filled Hood's plate over the decades. Some are inspired by her mother's dishes. Some are meals she once cooked to impress a boy, or the man she would eventually marry. Some relate to her children. Hood lost her five-year-old daughter, Grace (see Comfort: A Journey Through Grief), and it's heartbreaking to read about Grace's Cheesy Potatoes--rich and Gruyere-sprinkled--once happily assembled by Hood's little blonde girl with glasses. Grace, Hood recalls, loved "layering the potatoes in concentric circles and evenly spreading the cheese." So many moments and meals in Kitchen Yarns shine, but perhaps this is the recipe to try first, in honor of Grace and the grace granted by cooking with loved ones. --Katie Weed, freelance writer and reviewer
Discover: This food memoir from the prolific Ann Hood offers essays and recipes for readers seeking nourishment both culinary and literary--and a killer Whiskey Sour.
Biography & Memoir
All That Heaven Allows: A Biography of Rock Hudson
by Mark Griffin
Since Rock Hudson's death from AIDS in 1985, there have been numerous books about him published (including his own posthumous as-told-to autobiography). But Mark Griffin's intimate, engaging and superbly researched All That Heaven Allows is by far the definitive biography Rock Hudson and his fans deserve.
After a stint in the navy, the Illinois-born aspiring actor moved to Los Angeles. Talent scout Henry Wilson seduced him, added him as a client and changed his name from Roy Fitzgerald to Rock Hudson. Just seven years after his film debut, he earned a Best Actor Academy Award nomination for Giant in 1956. From 1957 to 1964, Hudson was ranked among the top five U.S. box office draws. Hudson's homosexuality was an open secret within Hollywood for decades, but it's surprising to find out just how open he was (after a brief arranged marriage). He lived with numerous men over the years and was remarkably forthright about surrounding himself with gay friends and visiting gay bars and sex clubs.
Griffin (A Hundred or More Hidden Things) interviewed Hudson's costars, family members and close friends (who also gave him access to diaries and unpublished memoirs). This chorus of insiders widens the biography's scope and paints a vivid, empathic and fascinating portrait of Hudson's private life, alcoholism and workaholic nature. Rock Hudson was a complex man who nurtured friendships for decades but briskly dissolved romantic relationships. Griffin offers an unforgettable, richly nuanced and psychologically intriguing portrait of a gay film star who survived within and outside the confines of his oppressive times and didn't lead a tortured life. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant
Discover: A complex, intimate and engaging portrait of Rock Hudson, his prolific film career, decades-long friendships and numerous gay relationships.
Babel: Around the World in Twenty Languages
by Gaston Dorren
If you spoke all of the 20 languages featured in Babel, you could talk with half the world, claims popular linguistics writer Gaston Dorren (Lingo: Around Europe in Sixty Languages). That said, the greatest polyglot in this book is a Cameroonian named Jonas who speaks eight. Dorren offers an intriguing tasting-menu of the major standardized languages, one chapter for each.
Trade and imperialism were the major forces that spread most of these languages among so many people. Some, such as German, Korean and Tamil, "happen to occupy compact but densely populated regions." Still others owe a widespread popularity to their historic status as official colonial administrative languages. "Most have this in common: they are lingua francas--languages that bridge the gap between people with different mother tongues."
At the beginning of every chapter, Dorren offers some basic facts about its subject, such as number of speakers, geographic range, loanwords and accent obstacles. These are followed by an idiosyncratic essay on whatever has struck him about that language: the ideophones of Korean, Bengali script, the "language revolution" of 20th-century Turkish and the "linguistic gender apartheid" of Japanese.
Dorren's themes include the sense of correctness people have about different aspects of their languages, the cultural knowledge required for true fluency, the joys and challenges of multilingualism and, conversely, the sense of belonging that shared language can provide. Babel is an engaging and informative whirlwind tour of how major world languages are created, used and changed. --Sara Catterall
Discover: This is an entertaining look at 20 of the world's major languages, their histories, cultural contexts, difficulties and quirks.
Essays & Criticism
How to Be Alone: If You Want to and Even if You Don't
by Lane Moore
How to Be Alone: If You Want to and Even If You Don't is a series of courageous essays by talented performer and writer Lane Moore. She considers the topics of self-dependence, living alone and finding a home within oneself instead of searching for it in other people. With a wildly popular comedy show, a successful singing career and many published articles under her belt, Moore is the embodiment of a confident, bold, independent woman who has it all figured out. She cracks that image into a thousand little pieces, however, by exposing just how hard she works every single day to escape the long, dark shadow of her difficult childhood and the pervasive loneliness that has been her constant companion ever since she can remember.
Life dealt Moore a tough deal: a violent father; a neglectful, absent mother; relatives who looked the other way; and a yearning for connection that often drove her into the arms of those least equipped to protect her. In boldly exposing her past to the harsh light of day, Moore has a twofold purpose: first to alert the reader to the devastating, long-term impact of childhood neglect and violence, and second to share her story of survival as an inspiration to others.
How to Be Alone is rich with compelling anecdotes from Moore's experiences. They boil down to some simple but powerful life lessons about reframing one's narrative: Don't tolerate inconsiderate or violent behavior. Learn about yourself through your relationships with others and work on self-improvement. Love yourself and have the courage to seek the love that you deserve from others. --Shahina Piyarali, writer and reviewer
Discover: Essays on combating loneliness and confronting childhood demons by accomplished comedian, writer, singer and actor Lane Moore.
Did You Just Eat That?: Two Scientists Explore Double-Dipping, the Five-Second Rule, and Other Food Myths in the Lab
by Paul Dawson , Brian Sheldon
Germaphobes and free spirits alike will delight in Did You Just Eat That?, an entertaining journey into the microbial underworld. Food scientists Paul Dawson and Brian Sheldon, with the help of students from Clemson University, subject popular wisdom to rigorous scientific testing--and present the results in an accessible, introductory format. (The cute illustrations of anthropomorphic bacteria are a bonus.)
Though the title purports to investigate "food myths," that's not quite accurate. Instead, through a series of experiments, Dawson and Sheldon enlighten readers as to just how cozily we live with bacteria, viruses and their friends--and how easily they can make us sick. Following a breezy but fascinating overview of these diverse microorganisms, the book is divided into three sections: "Surfaces," "Air and Water" and "Transport Mechanisms." If that sounds dull, read on: the experiments in each section have names like "Blowing out Birthday Candles, or Spraying Germs on a Cake?"; "Things You Put in Your Drink"; and "Beer Pong: Don't Hate the Game."
In each experiment, Dawson and Sheldon explore the origins of their inquiry (Who came up with the five-second rule? How many germs live on the average person's hand? Is it true that washing our hands can create more opportunities for bacteria to flourish?), discuss any prior research on the topic and guide readers through their own methods and results. In many instances, the findings are startling--for example, readers may never look at (or touch) their restaurant menus the same way again. --Hannah Calkins, writer and editor in Washington, D.C.
Discover: Two scientists present a funny and accessible--but rigorously tested--investigation of the things people believe (or fear) about food safety.
Children's & Young Adult
The Wall in the Middle of the Book
by Jon Agee
Anticipating the reader's perplexity, a diminutive young knight breaks the fourth wall and explains why a red brick barrier bisects almost every spread in this book: "The wall protects this side of the book.../ from the other side of the book." He seems to have lucked out by occupying the left side: the right side hosts a tiger, a rhino, a gorilla and, eventually, an ogre. But as the knight climbs a ladder in order to replace a brick, readers will note his blind spot: he doesn't see that water is rising below until it's almost too late ("This is not supposed to happen on this side of the wall!"). Fortunately, the ogre reaches over the wall and yanks the knight to safety ("I'm actually a nice ogre").
Jon Agee, the author of picture book corkers like It's Only Stanley, blankets The Wall in the Middle of the Book with his customary sight gags. When the three jungle animals retreat, the attentive reader will see that it's because they're spooked by a mouse. And while the knight assumes that he has avoided only the rising waters, Agee's tidy illustrations show that the little scamp narrowly missed being devoured by a school of fish. These visual yuks serve a serious point about the folly of demonizing the "other." After all, if the knight hadn't been so busy decrying the beasts on the other side, he might have noticed the duck who wandered into his side--a harbinger of the deluge to come. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author
Discover: A young knight who believes that a brick wall will keep out the enemy is in for a surprise--and for rethinking who the enemy is.
Period Power: A Manifesto for the Menstrual Movement
by Nadya Okamoto , illust. by Rebecca Elfast
Who knew there was so much to say about menstruation? Harvard sophomore and menstrual rights activist Nadya Okamoto did. Several years ago, the conversations she found herself having with homeless women about how they managed their monthly periods inspired her to look into the politics of menstruation. In 2014, she founded the nonprofit PERIOD, a youth-run engine of what she calls the Menstrual Movement, which seeks to destigmatize the bodily function and ensure that supplies reach those suffering "period poverty."
Period Power: A Manifesto for the Menstrual Movement covers basic ground (the physiology of periods, the history and types of feminine hygiene products) as well as less conventional terrain, including period-positive attitudes in pop culture and examples of the laughably uptight language of archival literature about menstruation. Okamoto relays all this using a tirelessly conversational voice ("A dude! A dude came up with the first tampon!") speckled with ALL CAPS for oomph ("SO COOL, RIGHT?!"). This isn't to say that Okamoto is a stranger to righteous indignation, as about the fact that most states tax sanitary supplies as luxury goods but don't tax nonessentials for men like Rogaine and Viagra ("ARE YOU &@%$&# KIDDING ME?!").
Period Power makes a credible case that when girls and women miss school and work due to period poverty, we can't be surprised by their less-than-equal representation in politics, STEM fields and other male-dominated professions. Okamoto is a force, and doubtless some readers--menstruators and otherwise--will leave Period Power proud Period Warriors. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author
Discover: Nadya Okamoto, a self-described Period Warrior, animatedly lays out the goals of the Menstrual Movement.
by Tomie de Paola
Award-winning author and illustrator Tomie de Paola (Strega Nona) challenges the hustle and bustle of everyday life in his simple, almost lyrical Quiet. A grandfather and his two young grandchildren take a walk outside, noticing the busyness of the world around them. "Everything is in such a hurry," the grandfather remarks at the sight of buzzing bees, flying birds and jumping frogs. But, he tells the children, there is great beauty and wonder in being still and sitting quietly. As the children and grandfather sit on a bench, all of nature takes a moment to breathe--birds, dragonflies, dogs and frogs all take a second to be "[q]uiet and still."
Complemented by de Paola's trademark acrylic and colored pencil illustrations, Quiet is a gentle yet powerful examination of meditation in its most natural form. The book's first scenes explode with color and activity and de Paola's illustrations grow less busy and more focused as the scenes themselves become calmer and quieter. This gradual simplification of the illustrations encourages young readers to pause and focus on small moments: a dog sleeping, birds singing, a dragonfly resting. The children of Quiet become restful during their observations: the boy notes "I can see, when I'm still," while the girl notices "I can think, when I'm quiet." While a story on quietness may not seem the most natural choice for children, Quiet's brevity and simplicity make it the perfect introduction for little ones. --Kyla Paterno, former YA and children's book buyer
Discover: Two children learn the wonder of quietness when out walking with their grandfather in Tomie de Paola's newest picture book, Quiet.