This is the story of Hare, who struggles with an un-named mental malady self-described as 'noise'.
Noise could be runaway thoughts, voices in Hare's head, or loud feelings and general anxiety. Hare goes on a journey to try and find a solution.
Just when Hare thinks there's no hope a friend, Ruru, flies calmly down and gives a suggestion.
I think this is one of the most beautifully presented books I have seen for a long time. It is bound in hard cover format, and that is just as well because it is a book that will last long after the young owners have grown up and no doubt passed it on to another family member. It begins with brighter pictures which are set in daylight, but as the story progresses the images become naturally darker as they reflect the night closing in. Miss Four's mother said she could happily frame one or more of the pictures and hang them on the wall as they are so attractive.
Although the book is aimed at pre-schoolers, it was a little beyond Mr Two - he enjoyed the pictures but the words were too challenging. Miss Four was more able to understand the story although she too liked the pictures best. She did keep getting Hare mixed up - she kept calling him a rabbit! Still, she was on the right track, and for the purposes of the story I don't suppose it mattered too much. However, this is a book that will grow with them and that they will enjoy for years to come. If their mother resists the urge to transform some of the pages into framed pictures, that is!
Hare, the hero of the story, is stressed because everything is too noisy. His quest for peace and quiet takes him on a journey to see if he can find the answer. Many people have this issue; the world is simply too loud and pushy. Years ago, almost everyone would have lived in quiet suburban streets if not the actual countryside, and noise would not have been the issue it has become today with so many people living in cities. However, it is often thought of as a grown-up problem rather than something that may affect children. I like the way the storyline normalises sensitivity to noise and shows how Hare is stressed because he just wants the world to stop for a moment and take a breath. The story makes it possible for a dialogue to start up between parent and child, and to bring concerns into the open.
One of the charming aspects of the book is the detail in each picture - the spiders, bees, worms, and other creatures that appear on each page. The cross-sections of the underground are delightful as they make it easy for young children to visualise what a worm's home might look like. The colours are attractive too; not the conventional technicolour block pictures often found in children's books, but a muted, quite sophisticated presentation reminiscent of some Japanese brush painting I have seen.
As for the message, Miss Four and Mr Two are both used to their mother telling them to concentrate on their breathing when they are overwhelmed. This is much the same as the advice that Ruru gives to Hare. It reinforces for all of them that everyone needs a quiet moment now and again, and finding it is not as difficult as it might seem. The teaching notes included would also be helpful in unpacking the contrasting ideas of sound and silence for little ones.
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