As I browsed through Grassroots Books, a place I have become incredibly familiar with through my time as The Advocate’s book reviewer, I was struck by the idea that I have yet to review a book for children. The idea came to me when one of the immensely helpful employees at Grassroots suggested Listen by Gabi Snyder.
Growing up, my own mother read to me as much as she could, and we continue to share a love for children’s books even today. You can often find us in the children’s section of a bookstore, quietly reading the picture books out loud to one another.
So when I saw Listen, I just knew I had to review it for all of the kids out there, both young and young at heart. I also reached out to Oregon author, Gabi Snyder, for her take on this adorable book.
What I liked
When asked about her inspiration for the book, Snyder said, “The idea grew out of a desire to explore, in picture book form, the benefits of listening. I also wanted to convey the sense that the world can sometimes be so filled with noise – both literal and figurative – that it can be challenging to focus or to filter out what’s really important.”
The story follows a little girl living in New York City, who feels overwhelmed as many of us do, by the noise of the city around her. The book is a reminder that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed, and that there are simple ways to feel more grounded in the world.
Snyder said, “I hope readers will come away from reading Listen with the sense that they can put listening and mindfulness skills to bear on a variety of situations. In particular, I hope that they’ll recognize that when the world feels overwhelming, there’s an opportunity to pause, close your eyes, and tune in to individual sounds.”
I also loved the amazing artwork, created by Stephanie Graegin, who was able to blend the sounds coming from the world seamlessly into illustrations. It feels like you’ve been transported into the drawings and can actually hear the sounds that are being made. I imagine reading this book in a classroom, and how much fun students would have saying the words in the pictures out loud.
What Was Missing
The only thing that I thought was missing in this book was the fact that it could have gone deeper into the act of listening to one another, and the idea of active listening — truly HEARING what someone was saying, without thinking of a response. I think this type of content could have been developed within the story. However, I understand that for simplicity’s sake, a deeper content may have spoiled the overall goal.
This is an immensely well written book, with beautiful illustrations, and a simple yet meaningful message. I will cherish this book until I’m able to read it to my own children.
About the Author
Snyder’s debut picture book, Two Dogs on a Trike, illustrated by Robin Rosenthal, was released in 2020 from Abrams Appleseed. Her second picture book, Listen, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin, came out in July 2021 from Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books.
Snyder studied psychology at the University of Washington and creative writing at The University of Texas. When she’s not writing, she loves taking nature walks, visiting Little Free Libraries, and baking sweet treats. She lives in Oregon with her family. Learn more at gabisnyder.com.
Illustrator Stephanie Graegin received her BFA in Fine Arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, then attended Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY for her Master of Fine Arts in Printmaking. She lives in Brooklyn. To see more of Graegin’s artwork, go to graegin.com.