About the Holiday
We’re surrounded by noise every day. Cars whoosh by on the street, TVs drone on, and voices fill the air in the office and at school. Sometimes it seems as if you don’t hear the constant din, but you do. Quiet Day was established to give people an opportunity to experience the benefits found in silence. Not only did the founders envision a day in which you sought out quiet places, but they suggest that you don’t speak at all for the entire day. Reconnecting with yourself and your thoughts can make you feel more relaxed and give you new perspectives that can stimulate creativity and better communications.
Albert’s Quiet Quest
By Isabelle Arsenault
With an “Ugh!” Albert heads out to his backyard to escape all the noise inside. He opens the gate to the alley, and there he sees, tossed away with an old lamp and some other trash, a painting of the setting sun shimmering on a calm ocean. Albert has an idea. He retrieves a chair and sits back, relaxing in front of the painting. In Albert’s imagination the hard, straight back chair becomes a beach lounger and the stony asphalt turns to soft sand.
Soon, two girls enter the alley. They’re repotting a green, leafy plant and ask Albert if he’d like to join them. “No, thanks, I’m reading. I’m fine,” Albert answers. Albert picks up the book on his lap and while he reads, the girl’s flowerpot turns into a beach pail, their coats become summer dresses, and the crown one girls is wearing softens into a wreath of flowers. Instead of potting a flower, they are building a sandcastle.
In a few more minutes Albert’s brother Tom comes out with badminton racquets clutched in his arms. He’s been looking for Albert to play with, but Albert tells him he’s reading. It doesn’t look like he’s reading to Tom since Albert is just sitting in a chair with a book on his lap, but then one of the girls says she’ll play with Tom. The sandcastle grows as one girl pats sand into turrets and stairs while Tom and the other girl bat around an enormous birdie with oversized racquets.
Suddenly, another girl appears, strolling her doll in a green carriage. She wants Albert to watch her doll while she goes back to get her cat. Albert starts to object, but the girl is already gone. When she returns with her cat, she proclaims Albert “so sweet.” But the beach is now quite crowded and the baby doll is crying and crying. The sandcastle has sprouted taller towers and a grand entrance. Albert tries to shut it all out by putting his nose in his book.
Just then a boy from down the block shows up with his radio. The music blares through the alley, calming the baby, inviting dancing, and attracting another child to join in. Albert sits on his beach chair with his head on his fist scowling at the huge boom box, the caterwauling baby, the dancing kids, and that enormous birdie. And you should see the castle! It’s now big enough to stand on.
Then Jimmy comes rolling in on his skateboard. He scares the cat, tips over the potted plant, causes the birdie to “thunk!” into the painting, and in Albert’s imagination causes everything to go kerflooey. Albert slams his book shut, steps onto his chair, and lets loose about how all he wants to do is read. All the kids in the alley stare sadly at him as they gather up their stuff and head back home. Albert climbs down from his chair and sits, a bit forlornly. Then he hears the “KRRRRRR!” of a scraping chair. Tom is back with his own seat and book. Soon, there’s a “Clomp! Clomp,” a “Tap Tap Tap,” a “Zzoooom,” a “tip tap,” and a “TTRRRRR,” and all of the kids are back with their own books.
Albert looks around at all of his friends sitting nearby quietly reading and smiles. He says, “Hey, guys… I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to—.” The kids all turn to him and say, “SHHH! SHHH!” Albert gazes at them and they gaze at Albert. Then they all erupt in laughter and enjoy the last moments of the sunset on the beach.
Isabelle Arsenault’s clever story nimbly switches back and forth between Albert’s imagined day at the beach and the reality in the alley, which little-by-little overtakes Albert’s quiet interlude. Each child, intent on their own activity, is not aware of or not bothered by the collective noise, but for Albert the din takes him to the breaking point. When Albert loses his cool, these children—first met in Arsenault’s Colette’s Lost Pet—flee, but not away from Albert. They empathize, and soon return with books of their own to fulfill Albert’s quest for quiet and show true friendship.
Arsenault’s buoyant cartoon-inspired line drawings alternate between the gray-scale background of the alley and the beach scenes rendered in tranquil tones of aqua and orange—the same colors that define Albert and his book. Details like the crying “baby” and the growing badminton set and radio as well as Albert’s meltdown provide opportunities for kids and adults to talk about how noise is perceived by people who thrive in a quieter atmosphere.
A charming mix of imagination, humor, and friendship, Albert’s Quiet Quest would be a delightful addition to home and public library bookshelves and a conversation starter for elementary school classrooms.
Ages 3 – 7
Random House Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-0553536560
To learn more about Isabelle Arsenault, her books, and her art, visit her website.
National Quiet Day Activity
Make Your Own Sensory Sand
You can have quiet fun with this sensory sand that you can mold or just let slip through your fingers.
- 1 cup sand
- ½ tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon dish soap
- Water as needed – about ¾ cup
- Bin or bowl for mixing dry ingredients
- Bowl for mixing dish soap and water
- In the bin combine the sand and cornstarch and mix well
- In the bowl combine the dish soap and water until the water is bubbly
- Slowly add the water mixture to the dry ingredients, mixing and adding water little-by-little until the desired consistency is reached. The grain of the sand will determine how much water is needed.
- The sand can be formed with cookie cutters, molds, hands, etc. and is strong enough to stack.
You can find Albert’s Quiet Quest at these booksellers
Picture Book Review