STARRED REVIEW
June 24, 2021

Listen

illustrated by Stephanie Graegin
Review by

In the opening pages of Listen, a girl stands on her front porch, her backpack resting squarely on her shoulders. She is surrounded by the din of the city.

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In the opening pages of Listen, a girl stands on her front porch, her backpack resting squarely on her shoulders. She is surrounded by the din of the city. “When you step out into the big, wild world, sometimes all you hear is . . . NOISE!” narrates an encouraging second-person voice. The girl follows the text’s advice to “stop, close your eyes, and LISTEN,” harnessing her attention to single out each individual sound as she walks. She hears a dog yipping at a car, a crow squawking on a power line, a teakettle whistling from an open window, gravel crunching under feet and much, much more. 

Once she arrives at school, the girl puts her active listening skills to work in new ways. When she overhears her classmate subjected to “words that sting,” the girl listens for “a sob, a sigh, or even silence” so that she can empathize and offer comfort. Finally, back home at the end of the day, the girl sits and listens to her breath as the text reminds readers to “hear the voice inside you.” 

Author Gabi Snyder’s engaging text speaks directly to readers, offering instruction as well as questions. “Can you hear ‘hello’ called across the playground?” she asks. The book’s back matter explores the difference between listening and hearing and the various types of responses we have to sound, such as the startle response. 

Illustrator Stephanie Graegin’s carefully composed, well-balanced spreads convey the busyness and bustle of the city while avoiding visual clutter. A soothing, cool blue dominates the color palette and provides a relaxing visual throughline for readers. 

The book’s design elements also work to support its theme. An appealing orange font emphasizes all the sounds depicted in the girl’s day, and the endpapers contain a series of small drawings that represent the sources of those sounds, such as a moving van and a boy practicing the trumpet. 

Listen is a gentle invitation to pause, close your eyes and appreciate every sound. It’s a welcome breath of fresh air. 

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Listen

Listen

illustrated by Stephanie Graegin
Paula Wiseman
ISBN 9781534461895

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