Sunday, September 16, 2012
The Quiet Place, written by Sarah Stewart and illustrated by David Small. Farrar Straus Grioux, Douglas & McIntyre. 2012. $18.95 ages 5 and up
Speaking of marvelous places, Sarah Stewart and David Small have created another amazing story about a very special, consoling 'quiet place'.
Would that we all could go there...and we can, in sharing this truly lovely new collaboration.
A move is always a challenge...whether across town, across the province or to a brand new country. There is a good deal of anxiety that accompanies such change. Leaving what you know and love behind results in sadness and even heartache.
So it is for Isabel. David Small's tender front endpaper is awash with the sadness of leaving. In the breaking dawn, we see three women holding tight to each other in the soft glow of home, as two men fill a trailer with family belongings and suitcases. The title page shows the car and trailer moving out, while the youngest waves goodbye. The sun is shining over the nearby hills and the small village is awakening. Mama reaches for her young daughter as Isabel focuses on where they have been, rather than where they are going. Mama recognizes her sorrow.
It is 1957. Isabel and her family are leaving Mexico for a better life in the United States. Isabel's first letter to her Auntie Lupita is written in English, a means for practicing her new language. She thanks her aunt for her letter, written in Spanish and so welcome to someone who is going to miss home and all that is familiar.
Isabel is made of strong stuff. She makes the best of the move; loving the first snowfall, appreciating her new teacher and even learning better English. She sends loving letters to her aunt telling her of their life in America. She and her mama are baking cakes for parties, just as they did in Mexico. She keeps busy with other pursuits, including creating a 'quiet place' for herself where she can dream her dreams and read her books.
As the family settles into their new home, Isabel becomes more involved with helping her mother, and meeting new children her age. Her birthday is the perfect day for getting to know them better; she asks her guests to bring their favorite word as a gift. The celebration allows her guests to discover her haven and to become a part of the memories from Mexico that she carries in her heart.
Life changes for each of us. Isabel makes the best of it, and we are witness to the change that takes place. Sharing her thoughts and dreams with her aunt, being supported by a loving family that recognizes her need for security and an opportunity to explore her own artistic creativity help Isabel adjust and move forward with new friends in a brand new place.
I cannot tell you how much I admire David Small's art...I would just go on and on, page after page wanting you to take note of the color, the detail, the expressions, the setting and time, and the joy that her 'special place' affords Isabel. Just wait until you open the gatefold that brings this remarkable story to an end. Wondrous to say the very least!