Wednesday, March 27, 2019

ReFoReMo Day 19: Author Michelle Houts Explores the Sound of Quiet


“It’s too quiet.” Authors cringe when they hear this from their agents. Agents sigh when these words are spoken by editors. “Quiet,” it seems, is the kiss of doom for an otherwise loveable manuscript, and yet… quiet persists. Some of the most beloved picture books of the past few years have been quiet books. Just because a book lacks clanging bells, honking vehicles, and over-the-top protagonists doesn’t mean it’s boring. When a book tells a good story, has heart, faces fear, sends us on an adventure, addresses challenges – it’s okay if it’s also quiet. Below are some texts that exemplify how books that aren’t noisy can be fascinating, engaging, and powerful.  In a quiet sort of way.

The Antlered Ship by Dashka Slater, illustrated by The Fan Brothers













Hello, Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall




















The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield




















The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas, illustrated by Erin E. Stead



















The Darkest Dark written by Chris Hadfield and Kate Fillion, illustrated by The Fan Brothers















Michelle is offering a signed copy of her newest (quiet) picture book Sea Glass SummerTo be eligible for prizes throughout the challenge, you must be registered by March 4, comment on each post, consistently read mentor texts, and enter the Rafflecopter drawing at the conclusion of ReFoReMo.


Michelle Houts is the author of many books for children, including the Lucy’s Lab series, STEM-based chapter books for science-minded kids and Winterfrost, a magical middle-grade tale based on Danish folklore. She’s excited to have two new picture books releasing in 2019. Michelle writes from a restored one-room schoolhouse in rural Ohio and has been encouraging  people of all ages from all over the world to write more letters as part of her 52LettersChallenge. Find Michelle at www.michellehouts.com

168 comments:

  1. I love quiet books that usually take us into another world or perspective. Your choices tell good stories. Can't wait to read Sea Glass Summer.

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  2. Quiet books are awesome! Thanks for sharing these samples.

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  3. Thank you for spotlighting quiet books. The Darkest Dark and Hello, Lighthouse fascinated me, as did the artwork of the Fan Brothers.

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    1. I had to limit my Fan Brothers selections! I could have chosen them ALL! Thanks for your comment.

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  4. Hi from Ohio! Isn't it amazing that a quiet book won the Caldecott the year, I wonder if Hello Lighthouse was ever rejected because it was too quiet.

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  5. Quiet books often have such wonderful read-aloud quality! Thanks for sharing these great examples! Looking forward to seeing Sea Glass Summer!

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  6. I have occasionally been told my stories are 'quiet', so it is heartening to hear there is a place for these stories. I will definitely be seeking out as many of these books as I can find. Thank you.

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  7. Don't know what happened above; that comment was mine:
    I have occasionally been told my stories are 'quiet', so it is heartening to hear there is a place for these stories. I will definitely be seeking out as many of these books as I can find. Thank you.

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    1. Hi, Kellie! I'm glad you're no longer UNKNOWN. Keep writing your heart!

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  8. I must admit that I'm not a huge fan of quiet books, but I look forward to reading these recommendations and turning my feelings about quiet books around. Cheers!

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  9. As a writer with a “quiet” book making the rounds I appreciate all of these titles for proving “quiet” can be amazing too!

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  10. Thanks for excellent examples of quiet texts. And congratulations on your two 2019 books!

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  11. I love quiet books for their lyrical language, mystical moods, and gorgeous illustrations. Thanks for sharing these--all winners in my book!

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  12. The uncorker of ocean bottles is one of my favorite books. Thanks for the list! And congrats on your upcoming books!

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    1. I know, right? How can anyone not fall in love with that book? And, thank you!

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  14. I just love The Bear and the Piano and can't wait to read Sea Glass Summer. I'm finding myself more drawn to quiet books lately, so thanks for this list. Just as adults have preferences for quiet vs. loud, kids do too. I'm sure there are MANY children that love quiet books. I also think that we adults put too much emphasis on making everything SO engaging at every moment (movies especially) that kids are forgetting how to pay attention in the quieter moments. It's probably the reason that old Disney movies aren't as appealing to today's youth. Not enough action (and picture quality can affect their ratings too). Thanks again!

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  15. These are great mentor texts to study the art of the successful quiet book! Thanks for sharing.

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  16. I love "quiet" books at bedtime. Thank you.

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  17. I love quiet picture books, thank you so much for the recommendations.

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  18. I love quiet books. It irks me when that is considered a negative rather than a wonderful quality!
    I also applaud your encouragement to write more letters. I'm with you on that one, all the way!
    Thanks for the above recommendations. Hello Lighthouse is the only one I've read so far. Look forward to reading the others, including Sea Glass Summer .

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  19. I love quiet picture books, and I love the ones you've featured here. Thank you!

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  20. Yes, quiet can be done! Great to see you here, Michelle. So excited for Sea Glass Summer.

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  21. Thanks, Michelle...I'm a sea glasser, living on the coast of Maine! We love Lucy's Lab in this house!

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    1. Aw, thanks! I'm trying to get a Maine trip together for September or October. If you have a local bookstore/library that might want to host a signing, send me an email! Part of my heart belongs in Maine!

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  22. I’m a big fan of quiet books. Thanks for the suggestions. Looking forward to reading Sea Glass Summer!

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  23. I love quiet books. The Uncorker of Oean Bottles is one of my new favorites. Thanks so much for the texts.

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  24. These are beautiful books, Michelle. Thanks for your post. Ass Sea Glass Summer to that list!

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  25. Michelle, these types of books are some of my favorites! Thank you for highlighting them in your post. I am very interested in reading your new picture books, in finding out more about the restored schoolhouse where you write, and in possibly participating in your 52 Letters Challenge.

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    1. Thanks, Brenda! If you have questions, feel free to email me!

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  26. All books on my favorites list. Guess I'm just a quiet sort of girl. And YAY for one room schoolhouses. Something I wrote is buried in a time capsule beside the old schoolhouse in our town. I used to host our crit group and other meetings for writers in that building.

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    1. I LOVE time capsules! How cool that your work is hiding away in one!

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  27. My debut book release is a quiet one - and kids are responding to it well! They need all kinds of stories. Thanks for sharing your list and your new book, Michelle.

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  28. What a wonderful list of quiet books. I've always had a soft spot in my heart for quiet books. Congrats on your new books coming out this year!

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  29. I love quiet books! One that has remained a favorite is The Quiet Book (2010) by Deborah Underwood. Thanks for this great list.

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    1. YES! And, Renata Liwska's illustrations are adorable!

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  30. It is always interesting to think of tension in quiet books. Is there? Another great quiet text is THE OXCART MAN.

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    1. I think there is. When we worry for the lighthouse or wonder the main character will find a friend or fret about a lost item, it's tension. In its least frenetic form.

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  31. Thanks for showcasing these delightful stories that enchant in their own quiet way, Michelle.

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  32. I appreciate quiet books, so I enjoyed this post. Thank you!

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  33. Great "quiet" books for study, because they do have value and absolutely are "fascinating, engaging, and powerful." Thank you Michelle!

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  34. I've always loved quiet books. Thanks for sharing these titles with us.

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  35. I love all of these examples of quiet books. It's so nice to see there IS a place for these books in the market.

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  36. I don't often write quiet, but I certainly have fallen in love with a few quiet books. Thanks, Michelle, for a nice quiet reminder of what is possible.

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  37. Interesting books and I like some quiet books but these are different with muted colors and the messages are content than most picture book listeners I thought. The Lighthouse and the Bear and the Piano books appealed most to my listeners under 8.

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  38. Nice selection. Thanks, Michelle. Given that children have the full range of moods and emotions, of course we need quiet books!

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  39. What a beautiful collection of quiet books, they are among my favorite. Wonderful mentor texts as well. Thanks!

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  40. The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles is such a beautiful quiet amazing story. What a concept! I write some quiet PB manuscripts and have the same concerns expressed in the article.

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  41. Quiet books are SOOOO important these days, with all the noise and tech and craziness. I'm glad these books are here for us to read and relax. Thanks for sharing! (Love Sea Glass Summer!)

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  42. Great clarification on the difference between quiet-boring and quiet-breathtaking.

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  43. Michelle, as a former elementary teacher, I delighted in finding "quiet" books to read to my students after recess. The soft images and rhythmic words relaxed their busy bodies so learning could proceed. Thank you for reminding us to take a risk with quiet stories if we have one to tell. I've placed SEA GLASS SUMMER on my purchase list. Can't wait to sit back and settle into your story! Blessings for your continued success!

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  44. Great choices. Thanks, Michelle!

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  45. Thanks, Michelle, for the recommendations. I found your words comforting, since I tend to write "quiet" books. I appreciate the encouraging words. Congratulations on your success. I am looking forward to reading your new books.

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  46. I think we need quiet books as much as zany ones. I loved the Bear and the Piano.

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  47. Thanks, Michelle! I've been on the receiving end of the response “It’s too quiet.” But children need a mix of books that reflect life. I'm glad that Sea Glass Summer found a pub home

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  48. The Bear and the Piano is a favorite of mine as well, and I love the magic of a well-written quiet book. I can't wait to read your Sea Glass Summer!

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  49. I love quiet books! Thank you for sharing yoru list of favorites. :) You are awesome!

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  50. I really appreciate quiet books; they are needed just as much as their bolder counterparts. This is a great list!

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  51. I love all of these books! Quiet wakes up the heart. Thanks for sharing, Michelle!

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  52. Thank you for this interesting post!

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  53. Most of the stories I write are quiet. These examples give me hope of someday finding an editor who will love my quiet book.

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    1. Write your heart, with your little readers in mind. Good luck to you!

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  54. Those are all wonderful books, but I confess THE UNCORKER OF OCEAN BOTTLES has a special place in my heart. Thanks for sharing, Michelle!

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  55. These are great books and very inspirational. It's critical that we provide children with a variety of books, that meet their emotions in different ways.

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  56. These books are wonderfully evocative, written in "genius quiet!" Living at the ocean, I love each one. I couldn't access The Darkest Dark, but the other four books' illustrations are exquisite, adding such amazing depth and feeling! Being a lifelong sea glass collector, I can't wait to see Sea Glass Summer, Michelle!

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  57. I love to read quiet books! They may be quiet but they stir up a lot of emotion. Thanks for this beautiful list and congratulations on your book!

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  58. You are so right, we are conditioned to fear that word and yet some of the most beautiful books are "quiet" books. Thank you for these wonderful suggestions.

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  59. Such beautiful books - wonderful post, and mentor tests. Thank yoiu.
    Visited your blog and was immediately moved to join two of your projects/challenges:
    The Mark Boney Promise
    52 Letters a Year

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    1. Thank you, Beverley! Those two projects are very close to my heart!

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  60. "Quiet" is not synonymous with "boring." We live in a very busy world & expect things immediately;a soft,quiet read is even more important nowadays. I really enjoyed all these books!

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  61. Thanks, Michelle, for his lovely post about the quiet voice of a book, and idea for mentor texts with heart. Really great examples!

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  62. I love quiet books and I'm glad you wrote about them.

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  63. I love quiet books :) Thank you, Michelle, for bringing these excellent mentor texts to the day.

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  64. I love these examples of POWERFUL, QUIET books. There's a time and space for everything. I am glad that publishers are seeing the beauty in these types of books that can reach a child's heart in an unassuming way.

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  65. Thank you for highlighting some quiet books. I love them, and I do get frustrated when I am told one of my manuscripts is too quiet.

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  66. I'm also a big fan of quiet books. Loved many of these, and am checking out The Bear and the Piano, The Antlered Ship and Sea Glass Summer, which I haven't read yet. The book I'm working on will be considered a quiet book, and I'm working hard on it.

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  67. I love this. Quiet books can be such gems.

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  68. I love quiet books. Thank you, Michelle, for sharing your favorites.

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  69. As a writer of "quiet" books - which have all been rejected as "too quiet" - it is nice to see these books on the shelf. Reading them has inspired me to go back to one of my quiet stories and do some re-visioning.

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  70. This issue of books being "too quiet" has always bothered me, but you're correct that the ones that do well are also fascinating, engaging, or powerful in some way. Thank you for these beautiful mentor texts and for your post!

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  71. Thank you so much for this post. I love these "quiet" books and have written my fair share of these type of books.

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  72. I tend to gravitate toward reading and writing "quiet" books and enjoyed these very much. Thank you for the great suggestions!

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  73. Such beautiful texts. Thank you!

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  74. what truth: Stories that are quiet can be so loud. Oh, what noise silence can make :) In truth, I found some of these stories to really be quite noisy in the fact that they rang just as many impressionable points in as others do. I tend to think "just too quiet" is also just another form of a subjective rejection...

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  75. The kids I share books with at my school loved Hello, Lighthouse (frankly, to my surprise) and The Darkest Dark.

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    1. Isn't it interesting how we think we know what kids will respond to and we are surprised sometimes? I think it's a great reminder to us to let the children be the judges. Thanks for sharing the books with your students!

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  76. Although these books may have a quiet message, or a quiet ending, they still have plenty of tension and adventure - pirates! aliens!

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  77. Yay for quiet books. I love them. The only one on this list I haven't read yet is THE ANTLERED SHIP and your new one SEA GLASS SUMMER. I will look for these. Congratulations on your 2019 releases.

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  78. These are some wonderful books- thanks!

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  79. Quiet topics like these deserve the exquisite quiet treatment they get with these five. Thanks for the suggestions.

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  80. Wonderful post, Michelle!! I love quiet books and am glad that there is still a place for them in the publishing world. Thank you for these terrific mentor texts. I have been a collector of sea glass ever since I was a child roaming the beaches of Ogunquit and Wells in Maine. Am looking forward to reading Sea Glass Summer.






















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  81. Michelle, great post. I loved when you wrote, " When a book tells a good story, has heart, faces fear, sends us on an adventure, addresses challenges – it’s okay if it’s also quiet." Those are some of my favorite types of books. And Sea Glass Summer is another beautiful title that belongs on this list.

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  82. I hope there is a place for all types of books including quiet ones. Variety is the spice of life!

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  83. Subtlety!! I love this topic!

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  84. So many WONDERFUL comments, you guys! Thank you! Keep 'em coming!

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  85. I so agree with you, Michelle! These are some of my favorite books in recent years. I'm always struck when I love a 'quiet' book and both my 4 and 6 year old daughters also love it (they're hard critiques). Your list, is amongst all of our favorites. Thank you.

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    1. Yay! Your confirmation (and that of your tough little critics!) means a lot to me. :-)

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  86. I like quiet. Quiet books are so much fun to read aloud.

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  87. I agree, quiet doesn't have to mean boring. I like quiet, but I don't like it when I hear it from someone who's just read my manuscript :)

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  88. Thanks, Michelle. These are wonderful books, my favourite being The Darkest Dark. I was fortunate to attend one of Chris Hadfield's talks and see some of his amazing photography. On another note, I'm looking forward to reading your Sea Glass Summer; I have two grown daughters who love sea glass hunting, so I think they would also enjoy it.

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    1. I'd love to hear Chris Hadfield speak! Thanks for sharing Sea Glass Summer with your daughters. I am still a sea glass hunting amateur, as an Ohio girl, but I look every time I'm at the seashore!

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  89. My writing is generally pretty loud, so I definitely appreciate writers who are able to capture the quieter stories! Thank you for sharing these!

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  90. The "quiet" books are some of my favorite! Thanks for sharing the ones that resonate with you!

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  91. I love that you're promoting quiet books as having value - that's what I tend to write. "The Bear and the Piano" is so sweet in exploring how the bear discovers which audience matters the most and that his friends were proud of him. I also love how "The Darkest Dark" by Chris Hatfield shows how a child can overcome a fear and achieve their greatest dream by hard work.

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  92. Thank you Michelle. I love quiet books. They don't have to be boring - most aren't. A good story with heart can address challenges and take readers on an adventure, and still be 'quiet'.

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  93. I like quiet books, too. Thanks for the post. And I think its just wonderful that you were gifted with an old schoolhouse.

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  94. Never underestimate the power of a quiet book--some of my favorite!

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  95. Thank you for this list. I LOVE quiet books. I write quiet manuscripts.

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  96. I love this list-- quiet books are often such a lovely read, and typically evoke gorgeous illustrations. I have long loved the Bear and the Piano, but I was happy to find these new titles. I have also noticed than many quiet books have older. adult MCs weather from the illustrations or text itself.

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  97. Thanks for reminding us to listen for the quiet! This is an important post! I appreciate your thoughts!

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  98. Thanks for a great post on why quiet books are so awesome! I love quiet books and the art that goes with them!❤️

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  99. I keep hearing from my agent that my books need to be louder, so I really appreciated reading these lovely quiet books. They're a good reminder that it's OK to be quiet if you have a great story to tell.

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  100. Thank you for these beautiful examples of quiet, powerful books.

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  101. It seems that all "rules" are meant to be broken. I feel like quiet books end up with the most beautiful art that pulls you and and makes you want to stay for hours.

    They don't always make good storytime read aloud because of their detail and wonderful pull into a different world.

    I can't wait to read Sea Glass Summer.

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  102. I love "quiet" books. The Bear and the Piano is one of my very favorites. My son and I just read Iver and Ellsworth and I think it would also be categorized as a quiet book. We loved it. Good luck with Sea Glass Summer - I'll look for it!

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  103. I love, love, love quiet books. Loved them as a kid. Love them as an adult. Thank you so much for honoring them in this post-- and for introducing me to a couple I haven't read yet!

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  104. These are great selections and not necessarily quiet. I think the Darkest Dark has so much to inspire and reassure children. i love the large format of Hello Lighthouse and the Bear and the Piano tugs at my heart (being a piano player myself). Thanks for these selections. I want to read the Antlered Ship. I love the Fan brothers ever since the Night Garden. i also love your books, Michelle.

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  105. In a world filled with sights and sounds of sensori stimuli, there are times when everything around can be overwhelming. Being overstimulated can cause sensory overload, which can lead to anxiety and depression.

    This excellent list of picture books supports the need to find positive feelings of calm and peace.

    Suzy Leopold

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  106. Looking forward to reading all of these!

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  107. Thank you for the suggestions. These are great for bedtime.

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  108. Thank you for the great examples of quiet books! Lighthouse is so pretty to look at.

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  109. One of my favorite childhood books is Play With Me by Marie Hall Ets which is all about what can happen when one is quiet. Life is so busy for children. Quiet books are so settling and soothing. Thank you for these suggestions.

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  110. "Quiet" is so tough to get right. If you can get a guiet book to market, you know you're doing something right. And the "right" things are exemplified in the ones you have selected. I love The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles. Cuevas' story line is so unusual. One of my favorite "quiet" books is The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood. Never to be confused, LOL, her book called The Loud Book.

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  111. I love it when I have actually read all of the books on the post. I loved Hello Lighthouse before the 'gold sticker'. I also find the first line in The Antlered Ship combined with the illustration to be perfect. Thank you for your insights.

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  112. My favorite is The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood.

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  113. So happy to have these books to read, they are reminders that childhood is not completely
    noisy and exciting. I especially like Hello Lighthouse! Thank you for the recommendations!

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  114. Some of our favorite bedtime books are quiet. There's certainly a time and place for them!

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  115. Love quiet books!

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  116. Looking forward to reading these books and yours! Thank you!

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  117. An excellent assortment of quiet, in all the right ways!

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  118. Quiet books are special and leave so much room for the illustrations which are beautiful in these books

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  119. My stories always have a tendency to be about chaotic events. These examples encourage me to try writing "quiet." Thank you.

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  120. Shhhh. I am whispering. I really loved The Bear and the Piano and Hello, Lighthouse/

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  121. I feel like quiet books are ones that I may not fall in love with right away, but they're the ones that make me think long after I read them. Always a good reminder to slow down and savor the stories.

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  122. we NEED quiet books in this noisy world!

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  123. OOOOOh, the sounds of silence. Thank you, Michelle Houts!

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  124. I love these quiet books that have beautiful illustrations.. especially Hello Lighthouse and the Antlered Ship. I love the story of the Bear and the Piano. All great choices!!

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  125. The quiet picture books are the ones that find their way into my heart. Thanks for this list of mentor texts.

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  126. Congratulations on your 2019 books and thanks for the excellent examples for the quiet niche!

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  127. Thanks for these excellent examples.

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  128. I think that quiet but engaging is very hard to do. Thank you for these excellent examples.

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  129. This was one of the posts that I was looking forward to the most when the reading list for this year was published. I think picture books can generally be perceived as gaudy cartoons for readers, and the attitudes of editors and agents may reflect that as you’ve mentioned. If it doesn’t have bright colors or a whacky premise for families to snicker along to, then what’s the point? But what I love about quiet books is how they sneak onto the shelves, how they feel like invitations to an enchanted realm where only the reader and the story exist, and how they can end up being the books that haunt us the most afterward, the ones that feel like vivid dreams we can’t shake.

    Even just reading the titles that were posted in the reading list conjured delightfully phantasmagorical visions in my mind. THE ANTLERED SHIP. THE UNCORKER OF OCEAN BOTTLES. THE DARKEST DARK. I mean, come on. How can you not be convinced that those books are suffused with magic? Those titles of full of questions and secrets, as are the stories within their pages.

    How to quantify THE ANTLERED SHIP? Totally unique, and especially so when you hold up it next to ESCARGOT, another picture book by Dashka Slater that’s more solidly in the mainstream camp. And how appropriate for the Fan Brothers to include that wonderful, dragon-filled map in the endpapers? They get it, because that’s exactly the vibe this story gives off. It gave me that same sensation of fantastical adventure that I’d get from watching stuff like THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD. Add to that a cast of adorably realistic animals, a dash of grim humor (“Foxes aren’t supposed to be vegetarians.”), and a healthy dose of the philosophical and what do you have? A new favorite.

    Quiet books also make great venues for lyrical and poetical authors to flex their muscles. Who can forget the lonely siren song of the lighthouse in Blackall’s wonderful book or the beautiful details in Cuevas’ (“Sometimes the messages were very old, crunchy like leaves in the fall. Sometimes the messages were written by a quill dipped in sadness.”)? Great stuff.

    Even if they weren’t singing about picture books, Depeche Mode was right. Enjoy the silence indeed.

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  130. Love quiet books. Love the examples given here.

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  131. I adore quiet books. Thank you for the great examples. Congratulations on your own. I am looking forward to reading it!

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  132. I loved The Lighthouse and The Darkest Dark. The quiet books encourage thinking, and I can think of no better result of reading a picture book.

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  133. There will always be a place for quiet books.

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  134. Thank you for addressing quiet books! I have a quiet manuscript and it's nice to have a list of possible comps. Some kids need those books, especially when so much around them is so chaotic.

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  135. Our world desperately needs these quiet books. We need that space away from the clanging bells and noise so that we can hear, process and feel. Thank you!

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  136. Interesting that these quiet books you've picked are some of the most beautifully illustrated! They may be quieter, but the writing is fantastic. Thank you for introducing me to The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles. What a beautiful, creative, unique story! I love it!

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  137. All but one are new to me. Thank you for introducing these. I really appreciate quiet books. Some of us are quiet people, and though we love energetic, fun protagonists, it's nice to have the quiet to balance it out.

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  138. Thank you so much for assembling this list of quiet--and in some cases, quirky--mentor books. I was especially excited to read astronaut Chris Hadfield's story after seeing him singing Bowie's "Major Tom" on the ISS!

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  139. Quiet books are some of my favorites.

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  140. Thank you for your advice and selection.

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  141. Looking forward to reading Sea Glass Summer. Thanks for showing what is meant by "quiet" and how we can take our "quiet" book to the next level.

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  142. This list is terrific. Just finished them and loved their quiet nature. So beautiful. Thank you!

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  143. I have a "quiet" manuscript of my own. Long live quiet!

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  144. Quiet books are some of my favorite.

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  145. We loved The Bear and the Piano. Sweet, quiet text. Thanks!

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  146. I love quiet books! Thanks for an awesome list!

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  147. Revising a quiet book so the list is a treat. The Bear and the Piano was a nice reading experience. Thanks for the list.

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