The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood. 2010. Illustrated by Renata Liwska. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Ages: Primary, early elementary

Genre: Expository

Summary

There are many different kinds of quiet. To name just a few of the many imaginative and insightful situations Underwood includes in her book . . . “Don’t scare the robin quiet” . . . “Thinking of a good reason you were drawing on the wall quiet” . . . “First look at your new hairstyle quiet” . . . “and “Best friends don’t need to talk quiet.” Already, probably, you can sense how very different these are. And this short list doesn’t begin to touch upon the many ways this author has imagined to envision this simple concept. Here’s the perfect book for looking at nuance: a single word with numerous connotations and applications to show off its infinite shades of meaning. What an extraordinary lesson in word choice this is–beautifully framed in context after context. Best of all, young readers will readily identify with virtually every one. Though the language is simple, this book opens profound doors of meaning–and will touch readers’ hearts at the same time. The lovely pastel illustrations by Renata Liwska are themselves “quiet,” understated, a perfect complement to a gentle test with a powerhouse message.

In the Classroom

  • Share the cover and title. What do your writers imagine this book will be about?
  • Before reading the book, talk about the concept of “quiet.” What does the word suggest to your writers? What does it make them think of? What are the times they want–or need–to be quiet? Are there times it is very hard? Are there other times that you almost can’t help it? When does being quiet feel really good? When is it uncomfortable?
  • Share the book–and take your time. You may wish to pause on some pages to discuss what is happening in the illustrations, which often carry much of the message. How does the “quiet” concept apply in each situation?
  • The illustrator of this book could have used very bright colors–reds, yellows, oranges, purples. Instead, she went with softer shades. Was that a good choice for this book? What do your writers think?
  • The author thought of many, many situations relating to quiet. Did she overlook anything your writers thought of?
  • Write expository pieces or poems about your own favorite quiet moments: Quiet is . . . being alone in the house, walking he beach at twilight, holding a baby as she falls asleep, tiptoeing down the stairs early in the morning . . .  You may wish to illustrate these–and even create a class book.
  • Explore another concept from many points of view, through prose or poetry. Possibilities: friendship, satisfaction, hope, nervousness, excitement, belief, success, relief, happiness. Or–use your own idea. You write, too.
  • Have your writers known someone who just could NOT be quiet, no matter what? Invite them to write a description of or story about this character (it could be themselves). Write with them.
  • What do we love more in our culture–quiet or noise? Write an opinion piece about this.
  • Write a review of this book, on paper or online. If you love it, recommend it so others will read it, too.
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