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Children's Picture Book 'Quiet' Celebrates Enjoying The Moment


You have seen this family at a restaurant, I'm guessing. They're all sitting there waiting for their food, heads down, each person staring at their respective electronic device. Hey, maybe you've even been that family. Author Tomie dePaola observed this exact situation not that long ago at a local restaurant where he lives in New Hampshire.

TOMIE DEPAOLA: They were all on their devices. They weren't even talking to each other. And I thought, oh, you know, we've got to stop and be quiet.

MARTIN: And in that moment, dePaola was inspired to create a new picture book. It is called "Quiet." And it is full of colorful illustrations of kids playing. It also depicts those same children learning how to be still. It's a very simple story that begins with an old man enjoying the outdoors with his grandchildren.

DEPAOLA: He's walking with the children. And everything is busy. Everything is busy. You know, the birds are flying. The trees are rustling. You know, the dog is running around. Originally, I was having people running and playing ball. And he says, my, oh, my, everything is so busy. And the children notice how busy everything is. And he sees a bench. And he says, let's just sit down here for a minute. And everything becomes still.

And if you live in the country like I do, there is the time of the day when everything does just becomes still. The squirrels stop looking for nuts. The crows stop fighting the squirrels. The - you know, the trees stop rustling. And he invites these two children to come close to him and to just think, just to be quiet. And you don't have to do anything else but that.

MARTIN: But there's so much in there. I mean, these children are sitting on this bench. And they're in the quiet with the grandfather. And then things happen. The little girl says, I can think when I'm quiet.


MARTIN: And the little boy says, I can see when I'm still.


MARTIN: Oh, man, I just feel...

DEPAOLA: Yeah (laughter).

MARTIN: ...Like that's so poignant in this moment.

DEPAOLA: Thank you. Thank you.

MARTIN: There's not a lot of seeing and thinking a lot of times in our public discourse anymore. And...

DEPAOLA: Oh, please, right, yeah.

MARTIN: There's an awful lot of noise.

DEPAOLA: Yeah. Yeah. I've been in this business of doing books for children for over 60 years now - or almost 60 years, I guess. I've seen so many changes. And you know - and I've never done what you might call a message book. And I don't - and I didn't start this - I don't think this is a message book. I think this is just a book about what I feel.

MARTIN: Where is the easiest place for you to create stillness?

DEPAOLA: Oh, well, I think that the wonderful thing is that I can find places wherever I am to get into that setting. Everybody can do this, you know?

MARTIN: Even kids.

DEPAOLA: Yeah. Oh, yeah. I think so. When you sit in and suddenly aren't doing anything, your mind just takes over. It's like a rollercoaster ride. You know, it just is filled with so - our minds are filled with so much that we just have to let all those thoughts go, which is easier said than done. It's very hard to let a thought go when we get it in our head.

MARTIN: But I guess we can't let the thoughts go unless we create the quiet in the first place.

DEPAOLA: That's right. That's right.

MARTIN: It is a beautiful book. It is called "Quiet." And it's written by Tomie dePaola. Thank you so much for talking with us about it.

DEPAOLA: My pleasure, and bless you.

(SOUNDBITE OF BIRDS CHIRPING) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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