May 17, 2019

Nurturing Faith, Hope, and Strength

I recently read two very special picture books, each of which could be accurately described as "quiet" books.  "Quiet books" reportedly struggle to make it to market, based on the argument that kids prefer rousing, rambunctious, raucous books. I've never agreed with that assumption, and I find it's rarely smart to second guess kids' tastes and preferences.
Nor should it be assumed that "quiet books" are best reserved for bedtime, although both of these books will serve well at night or nap time. 
Each, though, is also a compelling story, encouraging discussions and repeated readings to explore and imagine further details within each scene. Both also provide scaffolds for children to build confidence, to find agency and self-reliance, and to value imagination beyond immediate gratification. Both also expand perceptions related to size, perspective, distance, and connections.  And both are GORGEOUS in color, images, and book design.
Minedition 2019
Let's begin with a close look at THE BLUE PEBBLE, written by Anne-Gaelle Balpe and illustrated by Eve Tharlet. This doesn't overtly "teach" or "preach" to kids but is dense with reflective lessons. A persistent thought hovers over every page and is stated clearly on the back cover: hang on to what is special. Originally published in Europe, this luminous book elevates traditional fairy-stories and  reads like a whisper on the page. The combination of spare text and expressive illustrations invites us to lean in and use all of our senses. With little effort we can hear crickets and chirping birds, smell damp earth, and feel  daisy petals rustling overhead.
The central character, acorn-capped Oli, is a sensitive and observant little fella, clearly a member of the wee-folk world but not quite a fairy or elf or otherwise easily labeled. Oli appreciates the pebble's unusual shade of blue, its "not-quite" shape. As he encounters various woodland animals and elves, he is challenged to cast aside the useless blue pebble and pursue more practical items. 
Oli responds gently and politely. He is not naive, but is undeterred by their arguments, convinced that he should be guided by his inner compass. The very satisfying ending confirms the value of his decisions and offers a thread of a suggestion that he will continue on his centered, mindful travels through the world.
And what a world it is. The robin-egg blue tones are rendered in a dreamlike wash, with misty edges with just enough enough sharp contrast from pragmatic others to elevate the tension without becoming sinister. 
Minedition 2019

WHEN THE MOON CAME DOWN is written and illustrated by Feridun Oral. This quiet book is also a fantasy story, one that feels perfectly suited to bedtime. 
Briefly, when little bunny wakes at night, feeling alone and frightened, he is befriended by a sliver of a waxing moon. During their nightly meetings, moon helps bunny find food, explore the woods,  and experience the security of a deepening friendship. 
Eventually, full moon invites bunny to visit his home in the night sky. Magical moments unfold. Their relationship and special talisman allow little bunny to navigate his days and nights on his own. Here, too, the illustrations are mesmerizing.
As gentle and soothing as this story will be at bedtime, it invites daytime discussions to compare fantasy with reality. It can spark curiosity about  the relative sizes, distances, and shapes of moon and stars, as well as the role of instinct and learning in rabbits, particularly their nocturnal habits. None of that may be what the author/illustrator intended, but that's the magic of beloved picture books- they work their way into the nooks and crannies of hearts AND minds. 
It is also an example of ways in which picture books offer different appeal at different ages. 

A copy of each book was provided by the publisher, Minedition, with a request for a free and honest review.





2 comments:

  1. I adore quiet books, too, and these seem like two terrific new ones. Heading over to my library's request page now!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for reading here and seeking out the books. they are both newly released, so if your library doesn't have them request that they stock them. Kids (and families) have such varied personalities and preferences, and I feel deeply that these two titles are exactly right for some very special kids.

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Picture books are as versatile and diverse as the readers who enjoy them. Join me to explore the wacky, wonderful, challenging and changing world of picture books.