Keep it down during naptime!
By Valeri Gorbachev
How many of us, as parents, have restricted noise levels when “the baby” is asleep? I confess to being guilty of this infringement on decibel levels for older siblings while “the baby” is napping. I’m quite sure I did my share of using the title of this sweet book vociferously to my older daughter. BUT, in my defense, and those with a similar experience, “the baby” wouldn’t sleep through the night for A YEAR. So, as a result, nap times were sacrosanct. It was the one time I could get some much-needed rest for my eyes that felt like they were glazed over with Vaseline!
Valeri Gorbachev, émigré from the former Soviet Union, is a much beloved illustrator of over forty children’s books there, and “That’s What Friends Are For”, “Christopher Counting”, “Molly Who Flew Away” and “What’s the Big Idea, Molly?” here in the U.S.
Shhh! is just the ticket for a winter’s afternoon or nighttime read when we need to bring the energy level of children and adults alike to a lower level. And, alongside that, Mr. Gorbachev’s book is an endearing and loving look in word and picture of an age old theme – how do older siblings react when “the baby” is asleep? Sometimes, it is hard for kids to be quiet. But in Shhh! ,Valeri Gorbachev’s portrait of an older brother displays a sweet maturity of caring compassion for “the baby”.
In bold colors of reds, greens, yellows and browns, he imaginatively depicts the wide-awake and noisy world of the older boy. I love the connection he immediately establishes of a shared sibling brotherly bond. The pages are filled with older brother tiptoeing about the house, finger to lips, instructing life-size pirates to stop firing cannons, the group of armor clad knights to stop fighting, a big colorful clown bouncing balls to stop laughing, an eyebrow-lifted-in-surprise tiger to keep the growling down, a handle bar mustachioed pilot in helmet and goggles to please stop flying his buzzing plane, and a train roaring out of a tunnel to cease and desist. It is so quiet in his house when baby brother is asleep that a fly buzzing the living room can be distinctly heard! All is quiet on the home front.
But when the scene shifts to baby’s nursery, as he awakens, Mr. Gorbachev’s colors also shift to soft hues of pale blue in the nursery. It suggests a quiet reawakening of sound and life, with big brother at the door in bold coloration, head cocked in an endearingly inquisitive way that says, though never vocalizes, “Did you have a good sleep?” What a gift to be able to illustrate a simple look that speaks so much!
Each of his toys, for those are what the older sibling silences as his brother’s nap commences, has been reawakened from the self-imposed cone of silence! What Mr. Gorbachev skillfully and delightfully manages to convey is the creative power of a child’s imagination to quiet life-size knights and a big, bold, pirate ship under full sail with cannons blazing, which in reality are his own small toys in his own mind’s eye. It’s sort of akin to revisiting the street where you grew up – as an adult. Everything looks so SMALL! But in childhood it seemed immense, for it represented your entire universe.
I encourage you to take a charming glimpse into the Land of Nod as a child quiets his toys and the house out of love for his sibling, knowing that at the baby’s awakening, the din can continue with both joining in. This is a book to savor and share with a child. Naptime is over, no more tiptoeing, and let the reading begin out loud – with “Shhh!”