11.25.2012

The Christmas Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Renata Liwska



The Quiet Book and The Loud Book by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Renata Liwska are two of my all-time favorite picture books. Published in 2010 and 2011, they have the feel of a classic picture book while at the same time taking an idea that feels familiar and presenting it in a fresh and timeless way. After hearing Deborah Underwood's talk titled "The Power of Quiet" at the 2012 SCBWI LA conference (follow the link for more thoughts on Underwood's talk) I have an even greater appreciation for what she has accomplished with these books. Having read thousands of picture books in my life, and now reading manuscripts of authors who hope to publish their picture books, I can tell you definitively that writing a good picture book is nowhere near as easy as so many people assume it is and, in fact, writing a picture book that is entertaining, thoughtful has lasting value is absurdly difficult - not to mention finding just the right artist to illustrate it!  As Jon Klassen said in his speech when he accepted the 2012 Boston Globe Horn Book Picture Book Award for Extra Yarn, written by Mac Barnett, "Picture books are at their best suggestive," meaning that the picture books that resonate most with readers, that are remembered  well into adulthood, are those that present an idea in a way that encourages readers to use their imaginations and run with it. That can be said of Klassen's books as well as Underwood and Liwska's, The Christmas Quiet Book securing their place on the shelf of greatness.


The Quiet Book and The Loud Book are creatively clever catalogs of the different kinds of quiet ("Right before you yell 'Surprise!' quiet," and "Fireworks loud") that can start conversations or, depending on your timing, put little listeners to sleep. As with my review of the first two books, I don't want to divulge too many details because these books are such a delight to discover on one's own, but I can tell you that the holiday season, while filled with joy and exuberance, is also perfect for the kinds of quiet that Underwood and Liwska bring us in the The Christmas Quiet Book. There is "Knocking with mittens quiet" and all the other kinds of hushed moments that come with the snowy weather. Even those of us who live in warmer climates where it never snows can appreciate "Searching for presents quiet," "Getting caught quiet,"as well as "Shattered ornament quiet," and "Note to Santa quiet." Underwood and Liwska capture the moments of the season that make it memorable, warm and special, making The Christmas Quiet Book one that you will want to give as a gift and keep for your own family and those times of "Reading by the fire quiet."

As with The Loud Book, my favorite image from The Christmas Quiet Book is this overheard view of the critters and the tree, "Lights on Quiet." Be sure to visit Renata's wonderful blog  The Quiet Blog for excellent glimpses into the life of an artist! She shows sketches from her many Moleskine's (she is even in a sketch club!) and talks about the process of creating a book as well as sharing images from picture books that she buys and loves. She also has some lovely pictures of the various cafes and cups of coffee and tea where she sketches, making the life of a picture book illustrator seem VERY romantic...

Source: Review Copy

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