Quill and Quire

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The Quiet Book

by Deborah Underwood; Renata Liwska, illus.

How many ways and reasons are there to be quiet? You can be quietly listening to a robin sing or making a wish or dropping your sandwich jelly-side down or taking a first look at your new haircut. The text of this amusing picture book lists more reasons for being quiet, whether for fun or out of distress. The pleasures and pains depicted herein are those often experienced by young children, and are humorously intermingled so the moments of anxiety pass rapidly into another quiet joy. The text – by prolific San Francisco author Deborah Underwood – takes a matter of fact, sometimes tongue-in-cheek approach, and is enhanced by delightfully quirky pictures by Calgary artist Renata Liwska (Little Panda).

Liwska’s pencil drawings are digitally coloured in soft browns and greys, with backgrounds varying between colourful and plain white, emphasizing the expressions and reactions of the characters. The characters are animals – bear, rabbit, owl, porcupine, iguana, and what seems to be a young moose – whose forms are somewhere between real animal, stuffed animal, and child. In their composite identities and their bemusement at the situations in which they find themselves, Liwska’s animals recall E.H. Shepard’s drawings of Winnie the Pooh and his friends, though their little dramas play out in a setting that includes rollercoasters, bubble baths, and other features of the modern world.

After all the quiet moments of the young friends’ eventful day are past, The Quiet Book lingers on the process of going to bed, with storytime, tucking in teddy, turning off flashlight, and finally the long quiet of falling sound asleep. Stylish, funny, yet sympathetic, this should be a popular bedtime book.