Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Children's Book Review: 'The Christmas Quiet Book' by Deborah Underwood

The Christmas Quiet Book
by Deborah Underwood
Illustrated by Renata Liwska
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2012

If you have children, chances are good that your house is not at all quiet this morning. The Christmas Quiet Book, by Deborah Underwood depicts a world that is gentle and calm, where animals go through the motions of preparing for the holidays without the hustle and bustle and stress that so many of us have come to associate with this time of year.

This tranquil picture of the season will likely appeal to many adults who  yearn  for the simplicity of a bundled-up snow-covered world during the holidays.  Renata Liwska's skilled illustrations of soft and cuddly animals and cozy winter scenes perfectly echo the idyllic theme.

But from the very first sentence ("Christmas is a quiet time..."), the first-graders that I read this story to were confused.  They asked why the short phrases on each page ended with the word quiet, since their experience of the holiday season didn't have this quality at all. After reading the last line, "Christmas morning quiet," (Was this supposed to be irony?!) I asked the children if Christmas morning was quiet at their house, and all of them vehemently shook their heads.

The editors at Houghton Mifflin Books for Children were doubtless hoping that The Christmas Quiet Book would ride on the coattails of the success of Underwood's previous publications, The Quiet Book and The Loud Book!, and perhaps it will. It is a nice book, but it reflects more on our dreams of Christmas than on reality. Parents nostalgic for a simpler time may be eager to share this pastoral version of the holidays with their children, but I think the kids will know better.

Deborah Underwood is the author of The Quiet Book and The Loud Book!. Her other picture books include A Balloon for Isabel and Granny Gomez & Jigsaw. She is particularly fond of Christmas tree at midnight quiet and evening snowfall quiet. www.DeborahUnderwoodBooks.com

Renata Liwska's favorite Christmas quiet is with family and friends. In addition to illustrating The Loud Book! and The Quiet Book, Renata has written and illustrated Red Wagon and Little Panda. www.renataliwska.com

Renée Vaillancourt McGrath has worked at Montana Public Radio as a program host since 2002. Her background is in librarianship and she currently works as a freelance editor, blogger, and website developer. Check out more of her book reviews at reneesreads.com.

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