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Book Reviews

The Silence Slips In

by Alison Hughes and Ninon Pelletier (ill.)

Moon Wishes

by Guy and Patricia Storms; Milan Pavlović (ill.)

My Forest Is Green

by Darren Lebeuf and Ashley Barron (ill.)

There is a picture book for every mood, emotion, and time of day, including the quieter moments. Three peaceful new releases encourage readers to be present, keep calm, and read on.

Moon Wishes by Guy and Patricia Storms is a sleepy poem set alongside a glowing, watery array of illustrations by Milan Pavlović. It is an ode to the benevolent power of the moon, full of warm, comforting language: “If I were the moon, I could give a voice to those who need it and welcome the dark and joyful howls of a winter night.” There are rarely more than a dozen words on each page, but Pavlović’s spreads slow down the reading experience with mixed-media artwork that dances like the northern lights, each colour blurring and rippling into the next. Several of the poem’s lines are set in or near large bodies of water, a decision that pairs perfectly with Pavlović’s  sweeping brush strokes that alternate between delicate and saturated. One highlight occurs in a scene that shows readers both the underwater and surface perspectives of two humpback whales revelling in a multi-hued green wash of nighttime sky.

If anything detracts from the overall experience, it’s the way that the moon randomly changes from one shape to another throughout the book. Portraying it more deliberately in its natural chronological phases could have served as a clearer link between each free-standing spread (and offered a subtle science lesson). But Moon Wishes embodies complete calm in its textual and visual lyricism.

The Silence Slips In explains how children can create their own inner sanctum by befriending the Silence – a large, cloud-like, smiling half-bear/half-rabbit creature. Writer Alison Hughes personifies the Silence as a trusty, on-call ally kids can summon at any time, but especially when doing activities like reading, thinking, fishing, going to bed, or – as one illustration shows – attempting a downward-facing dog. The book also features the Noise and the Dark, embodied by large brown and blue creatures respectively. The three characters – combined with the prescriptive language that tells kids how they will feel when the Silence is around (“Your busy mind will settle. And you will smile a peaceful little smile”) – feel more explanatory than experiential. But Ninon Pelletier’s illustrations help counter the instructional aspect by emphasizing a growing relationship between a  girl and the Silence, developed over the course of the book.

A predictable use of colour sends clear visual signals to readers, with the Silence appearing most often in golden-hued spreads and the Noise casting dark shadows. The presentation hints at an overly simplistic dichotomy of silence being good and noise being bad, though this may be a necessary message for younger readers who are just beginning to understand how to regulate their feelings.

In My Forest Is Green, debut author Darren Lebeuf shows a child finding peace in art and nature. Using simple language and short sentences, Lebeuf introduces readers to an urban kid who can see a forest (which may actually be a large park) from the balcony of a high-rise apartment. Though the child is identified as a boy in the jacket copy, there are no name or gender markers in the text or illustrations, adding to the universality of the story. When the child journeys into the green space, they are energized and fulfilled, experiencing the forest with all their senses, including different textures, sounds, and temperatures.

Illustrator Ashley Barron wastes none of Lebeuf’s precious words, pairing a different piece of the child’s artwork with the descriptive terms relating to the forest. Barron also includes many thoughtful details about the main character’s life, including a mother and baby in the apartment’s background and a small living space made vibrant by arts and crafts.

The book is a success on many levels, showing how calm and focus is a natural by-product of doing what one loves, celebrating the creative instincts of a child, and modelling simple art activities that young readers can undertake even if they live in a city that offers nothing more in the way of nature than a few trees and pebbles.

Just as a state of calm looks and feels different for every child, so too should the books that reflect and explain the experience. These stories demonstrate that calmness can be found in poetry and colour; in an invisible presence cheering silently at one’s side; or in the natural world and the act of creating something new.