Alison Hughes is the author of the new children's picture books The Silence Slips In, illustrated by Ninon Pelletier, and The Creepy-Crawly Thought, illustrated by Hughes's sister, Jennifer Rabby. Hughes's many other books include Hit the Ground Running and Lost in the Backyard. She lives in Edmonton, Alberta.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Silence Slips In?
A: Oddly, the idea came from an alarming psychological study I read while I was researching something else. In the study, the teenaged subjects chose to self-administer electric shocks rather than sit alone in silence. I wondered if younger kids felt a similar unease with silence, so I began asking about it during school presentations.
I started getting a picture of children oppressed with the idea of silence. Silence was seen as boring or scary or even used as a punishment. And silence was increasingly scarce in their lives of informational bombardment, constant connection and scheduled activities.
So I wanted to write about silence in a very positive way, exploring its links to serenity, mindfulness, self-regulation and mental health. I wanted to celebrate silence as a tool children could use to block out noise, and let calm and peace slip in.
Q: What do you think Ninon Pelletier's illustrations add to the book?
A: Quebec artist Ninon Pelletier’s illustrations are just phenomenal, and are perfectly, exactly everything I could have hoped for in this book. She manages to create a sense of beauty, peace and wonder on each page, showing in glorious spreads what I’d hoped to suggest in the sparse text. She’s taken the ideas and made them so beautiful.
Q: What do you hope kids take away from the book?
A: I’d like children to realize that they have the power to calm themselves, to embrace a little peace and quiet whenever life gets too hectic, and to value and celebrate a little silence in their lives.
Q: You also have another new picture book that you worked on with your sister. How did the two of you collaborate on The Creepy-Crawly Thought?
A: I’d written the story, and it really resonated with my sister, Jennifer Rabby, whose child was having fearful thoughts at the time. Jen is an artist and was thinking of making the leap to illustration, so we both thought it would be a wonderful thing to make this book OUR book. And it was! I loved seeing the illustrations develop, and there was enormous satisfaction (and a huge learning curve) to doing the book on our own.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’ve just come off a really intense period of writing (two YAs, a middle grade and a few picture books) so I’m doing other work while I wait to see which of my many book idea pushes to the fore, taps me on the shoulder and whispers “time to write me.”
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: As writers, many of us feel anxious when we’re not writing. But increasingly, I’m realizing that’s often not how the creative process works. There’s writing. But there’s also incubating. Both are necessary.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Alison Hughes.