By Gabi Snyder, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin. Paula Wiseman Books, 2021. 40 pages. $17.99/hardcover; $10.99/eBook. Recommended for ages 4–8.
In an overstimulating world, children sometimes lose sight of the difference between hearing and listening. In this story, a young girl walks out of her home and is barraged by a cacophony of sounds: engines revving, cars beeping, trucks backing up, dogs barking. The narrator then guides the reader through not just hearing the sounds together, but intently listening to each individual sound around them. When you close your eyes and listen, what do you hear? There is so much more than the loudest sounds we first notice. Deeper than that, what do you hear in the words that are spoken around you? Can you hear the things that don’t get said? Can you hear someone’s feelings, through a “sob, a sigh, or even silence”? Can you hear your own voice inside your head?
Warmly illustrated in soothing shades of blue, this story is an exercise in mindfulness, guiding children to slow down and truly listen to what is around them. The “More About Listening” section at the end is particularly helpful in encouraging kids to dig deeper into the different ways their minds listen. My students were particularly fascinated by the difference between a “bottom-up response” (when a sound like your name being called out draws your attention) and a “top-down response” (when you intentionally focus your attention on something). This story would make a great introduction to mindfulness for children or a wonderful bedtime story. It is calming and centering, guiding even the oldest reader to stop and listen.
Julia Copeland is the school librarian and technology coordinator at Greene Street Friends School in the historic Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa. She loves talking about children’s literature and works every day to help teachers diversify their classroom libraries and curriculum to reflect their school community, our country, and the world around us.