Quiet + an interview with Tomie dePaola

by Tomie dePaola (Simon and Schuster, 2019; out today!)

photo credit: Laurent Linn

Hello!

It’s been a while since this site pushed some pixels and print your way, and I’m happy to be settling back here with this book. It’s perfect for today—a reminder to slow down, to listen, to refill.

It’s soothing and soft and a true experience, as the best picture books are. Immersing yourself in this may allay the exhaustion of the moment. You know the one.

I got to chat with Tomie dePaola recently about this book, and had a delightful time. He is an absolute legend, right? I don’t have to tell you that. But can you imagine how I felt, staring at those numbers on my phone?

Nervous.

Shaky.

A little weepy.

But then he said hello on the other end of the line. His voice, of course, a smile—impossible to unhear.

Right away he apologized for being a little hoarse.

What did I say? “Oh, so not a little chicken?”

What did he say? “Well, I used to be a little goat.”

And then we talked about this book.

Tomie spends nearly an hour each day in quiet reflection—not quite meditation, not quite prayer, not anything with a label other than being.

This idea began as two flashes of memory. He remembered all the times as an eight-year-old boy—sitting, just sitting, at a window in his attic. He loved that window. He loved the quiet. He also remembered sitting by a wall of windows in Miss Gardener’s classroom, doing the same. Miss Gardener, however, insisted little Tomie dePaola stop daydreaming.

Little Tomie dePaola insisted right back, “I am not daydreaming, Miss Gardener, I am thinking.”

Do you see the windows in this book?

Can you imagine Tomie dePaola’s thinking here?

Isn’t he inviting us to look alongside him?

After this cast of characters witnesses the hurry,

the flying,

the rushing,

the zooming—

they take a rest.

That’s when the windows open up.

One of the things Tomie loves best about this book is how it surprised him. He’d sent the paintings off to New York, and didn’t take a look at the proofs for many, many months. When the pages came back to him, Tomie said he was so pleasantly surprised by the way it breathed, by the pace of the  space, by the rhythm of the line.

Quiet, in a way, had completed its mission on the creator himself.

When Tomie was four-years-old, he made a grand pronouncement to his family: I will be an artist. Doodles filled Miss Gardener’s arithmetic pages. Stories with his mother filled his nights. Tomie even added a little extra red-crayon-rouge to a dancer’s face in one of his beloved books because “she didn’t have quite enough.” One glorious Christmas morning, under the tree, art supplies and books toppled over in piles.

“My parents and relatives just loaded me up,” he said.

Isn’t that the work of Quiet, as well? Being quiet, yes, but also being still, open, and together? Nobody is ever alone on a page. There’s always a ladybug, a dragonfly, a friend of one kind or another. That’s what Tomie’s Christmas tree story reminded me of—someone watching, someone listening, someone loving someone else and what they love—things you might not notice through the busyness.

Take a look at Quiet. Take a look around.

Thanks to Simon and Schuster for an advance copy of Quiet, the images in this post, and the opportunity to talk with Tomie dePaola!