Why Are You So Quiet?
Why Are You So Quiet?
[Myra Louise] thought if she could just find the answer to their question, everyone would finally understand.
And she went to the garage, the quietest place in the whole house. The hours fell away as she glued and fastened and hammered. Before she knew it, she had made . . .
. . . a listening machine.
Jaclyn Desforges’ picture book, Why Are You So Quiet?, celebrates diversity by championing Myra Louise’s quiet, contemplative way of being. Readers aged three through eight are most likely to enjoy this story which would be perfect as a Kindergarten read-aloud.
Protagonist Myra Louise plays the starring role. Readers are informed that she enjoys quiet things and listening—she even speaks quietly. This information acts as an effective device to build respect for the main character, thereby priming readers not only to root for this underdog, but also to feel empathetic when they learn that everyone questions, and even teases, Myra Louise about her quietness. Finally, readers are invited to celebrate Myra Louise’s triumph when she builds a listening machine that entices the boy who teased her most to become her friend. These strong connections between character and plot create an irresistible story that’s impossible to put down.
Risa Hugo’s illustrations are equally irresistible. Myra Louise is often shown alone, and, while she sometimes looks lonely, she more often looks calmly contemplative and satisfied. The cartoon illustrations possess a strong cute factor, particularly with the inclusion of a cat and a toy octopus in most page spreads. However, the illustrations also incorporate elements of impressionism and realism with stunning portraits of Myra Louise that reveal an immense amount about her emotional state. This close visual focus on her deep reflection both mirrors the written text and provides an incredibly respectful way of validating a child’s unique reality.
The author dedicates this story to “quiet kids everywhere”, but any child could enjoy it—and every child deserves to reflect on its quiet beauty. Myra Louise’s strong character, along with the relatively non-threatening conflict, provide an accessible entry into discussions about ways of being that will lead effectively into opening up discussions about broader diversity. Why Are You So Quiet? should be read aloud in every Kindergarten classroom across the country, but it also deserves a place in libraries and homes.
Michelle Superle is an Associate Professor at the University of the Fraser Valley, where she teaches children’s literature and creative writing courses. She has served twice as a judge for the TD Award for Canadian Children’s Literature and is the author of Black Dog, Dream Dog and Contemporary, English-language Indian Children’s Literature (Routledge, 2011).