Book review: ‘Shhh…God is in the Silence’
“Shhh…God is in the Silence.” By Fiona Basile. Illustrated by Alice Mount. Chicago: Loyola Press, 2018. 26 pages. Paperback: $8.95.
In this deceptively simple book, author Fiona Basile and illustrator Alice Mount have captured two profound truths: The first is that God loves us beyond all measure, and second, that the path to finding Him is in the silence of our own hearts.
The subtitle of this picture book says that it is “a story for all ages” and the format — full-page illustrations, simple wording and large type — indicates right away that that includes the very youngest of children. (The recommended age range is listed by the publisher as two to six.) Indeed, the author uses an approach which is often seen in children’s stories because it is very effective way to engage youngsters — she builds her message one line at a time, repeating that line and adding another, then repeating the first two lines and adding a third, and so on to the end of the book. (I suspect that by the third or fourth time this is read aloud as a bedtime story, a child will be familiar enough with what is being said to chime in on at least some of the words.)
The illustrations, very beautifully and gently rendered in soft water colors by Mount, also speak to this being a book for the very young. The pictures place an emphasis on depicting loving interactions between adults and children, whether it is through playing and reading together, driving in the car or holding the new kittens which have recently made an appearance in the household. There are also many pages in which the children are interacting with animals; we see them with birds, butterflies, a dog and squirrels, for instance, (but given the predominance of cats and kittens, I suspect the illustrator may be a “cat person”).
Mount also includes children and adults of different races in her illustrations; in fact, the only addition that would make the book even more universal would be the addition of some older adults, perhaps a grandparent or two. Despite that, however, the tone is definitely one of quiet, gentleness and love, which makes it a perfect end- of-the-day read.
Yet, even with all that points to this being a story for children, it is, as the subtitle tells us, a book for all ages, and it is the message that makes it so. Given how noisy our world has become, filled with multiple kinds of screens, podcasts and constant chatter, adults need to be reminded — quite often, in fact — that if we are truly looking for God, we must, like the prophet Elijah, search for Him in the silence.
If we make that effort, what we find God saying is truly a pearl of great price. “Listen closely to your heart,” Basile writes. “I love you, he says. You are precious. There is no one else like you. I created you. You are mine.” Such simple words and yet such a profound truth.
Not all of us will have the opportunity to participate in the kind of 30-day silent retreat which was Basile’s inspiration for this book, but if we ponder her words enough, we may find ourselves more and more willing to carve bits of silence out of each and every day. And, if we can become like the little children we read this book to, we can also come to realize that the comforting words that end this story are meant for adults as well: “I am with you always. You are safe. So rest, little one … and know that God is always in your heart.”
About the Author and Illustrator
Fiona Basile has been a writer and photographer for the past 18 years. She works full time as a freelancer, based in Melbourne, Australia, and is a member of Australasian Religious Press Association and the Australasian Catholic Press Association.
“Shhh…God Is in the Silence” is the fruit of a 30-day silent retreat in which she participated in 2015.
Alice Mount is a religious education and visual communication design teacher at a Melbourne, Australia, secondary