When a teacher requests picture books to begain a conversation with young students about immigration and change, I go straight to the library shelf and pull these books: Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say, Good-bye 382 Shin Dang Dong by Frances Park, One Green Apple by Eve Bunting, and a few others. But as of today, there will be a new book in their stack: The Quiet Place by Sarah Stewart and illustrated by Stewart’s husband, David Small.
Stewart and Small explored similar themes with their two earlier picture books – The Gardener and The Journey. Both of those books, told through letters like The Quiet Place, take place in the 1930s. The Quiet Place is about the journey of a young girl and her family moving from Mexico to America in the 1950s. Isabel misses Mexico, but loves some things about her new life in the United States: snow, her teacher, and most of all, a big box that she turns into “a quiet place for me and my books.” She also celebrates learning new words. “The words I liked best, Isabel writes, “were: sunrise, nightingale, twilight and lullaby, but the one I like to say out loud is sycamore.”
Because Isabel’s mother caters birthday parties, we see Isabel slowly beginning to engage with other children. She also collects lots more boxes to add to her quiet place, and the double gate-fold spread at the end of the box shows us what she has done with all of those boxes! Small’s expressive and colorful loose line illustrations are perfect at capturing the power of love and determination in Isabel’s family.