A Little Bit of Hush

A Little Bit of Hush
Paul Stewart and Jane Porter
Otter-Barry Books

Squirrel and her babies live in a big tree; so too do all sorts of noisy birds. Their cacophony is such that the baby squirrels are unable to get to sleep so their mother decides to consult Owl. Having heard her problem Owl brings out a jar containing so he says, “A Little Bit of Hush”. Squirrel is somewhat puzzled that she can’t see anything in the jar so Owl demonstrates the way in which it works and goes on to show her his special invention, a Silence Catcher.

The two of them then embark on a magical journey through the woods with Owl capturing the hush between the Blackbird’s song and its alarm call, and encourages Squirrel who finds some of his own – the hush within a hollow tree stump, a hush deep down in some fallen leaves.

Owl then captures the stillness after an acorn drops before it bounces on the forest floor and even the silence between lightning’s flash and thunder’s roll. All these Owl stows in pockets of peace and pouches of stillness and hush; then back in his workshop he uses these ingredients, creating a special mixture that he puts into a jar for Squirrel to take back to her family.

The noise outside her front door is louder than ever when she returns, but now she has her own bottle of helpful hush. Will it work its unique magic on the five squirrels?

I love this idea and tried it out on my walk after this book had arrived in the post. It certainly made me more mindful of the spaces between the natural sounds that surrounded me as I stopped and sat for five minutes just listening.

With its examples of natural sounds, though interesting in themselves, but which can sometimes becomes distracting, Paul Stewart’s story shows the importance of silence in our busy world. Like Squirrel we all need times without noise either to drift off to sleep or as a kind of sacred space into which we can retreat and be contemplative. In her collage illustrations, Jane Porter beautifully captures the noisy woodland environment of the creatures’ quest for peace and quite, amusingly portraying the various sources of the distractions.

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