Monday, February 25, 2013

The Quiet Place by Sarah Stewart

 The Quiet Place by Sarah Stewart, illustrated by David Small

Rating: 4.5 stars

Some of the best books help launch kids (of all sizes) into a different creative space.  They teach!  They show!  They inspire!  And, thanks to the great words of Sarah Stewart and the incredible drawings of David Small, The Quiet Place does all of that.

The story: Isabel moves with her mother and older brother from Mexico to America--to some unnamed northern state where it randomly snows in April.  Her mother bakes cakes for little girls' birthday parties, and Isabel gets to tag along.  Sometimes she is offered a piece of cake or goody bag, but she politely declines those and asks for boxes.  She collects boxes--the bigger,the better--and creates her "quiet place" from which she can write letters back home, read books, and just think, dream, be.  By the end, all the little girls in the neighborhood are invited to her birthday party, and they are wowed by the quiet place she's created.

"My quiet place was not quiet, but it didn't matter"
(Check it out in the picture--aren't you wowed, too?)

This book resonates with me for three reasons:

  1. Lorelei has two little brothers who are like two puppies from the same litter.  While she can be loud and crazy, too, Ben and Kiefer are almost always loud and crazy.  So she often looks for a quiet place to read and finish an art project.  Her cardboard box house might need a padlock. Or two.
  2. As an Army brat, my family moved around every 2 or 3 years.  My parents would set aside one room for boxes--for my sister and I to play with.  Just like Isabel, we would create elaborate tunnels that led to higher boxes, with windows and doors, all decorated with our favorite Crayola colors.  I particularly remember the one we created in the bright sunroom in our big brick rental at 25 East 52nd Street in Savannah.  (How I remember the address but not the words to my favorite songs is beyond me.)
  3. The book is written through letters, from Isabel to her favorite Auntie Lupita back home in Mexico.  Letters are by far my favorite thing to write.  And I don't mean the electronic kind!  I spent a few years in Asia and while email was around then, letters were clearly superior.  I was lucky to have parents who wrote frequently and well, and there are boxes of letters in our houses from each other.  I love that this book shows kids another great reason to read--letters are out there to be written and read, shared and enjoyed.  Pen pals and grandparents, cousins and aunties...hopefully millions of letters will be penned by my trio over their hopefully long and happy lifespan (but soon not delivered on Saturday).

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