Monday, November 4, 2013

How to Be Alone, by Tanya Davis and Andrea Dorfman

How to Be Alone: poem by Tanya Davis, illustrations by Andrea Dorfman

Available Now

Reviewed by: Honorary Sis Sarah P.

The Sisters Say: beautiful picture book for grownups (!) with some courageous things to say about the way we live now

If you are at first lonely, be patient.
If you're not been alone much, or if when you were, you weren't okay with it, then just wait . . .

From a solitary walk in the woods to sitting unaccompanied on a city park bench to eating a meal and even dancing alone, certain activities can feel strange when you're on your own. We rarely treasure those moments, even though there are abundant possibilities and delights waiting to be discovered when we have the time to just be with ourselves. Tanya Davis's words and Andrea Dorfman's beautiful illustrations soothe the disquiet that accompanies this fear of aloneness, and celebrate the power of solitude to change our views of ourselves and the world. How to Be Alone reveals how, removed from the noise and distractions of other lives, we can find acceptance and grace within.

For those who have never been by themselves, or for those who relish being on their own, this moving work encourages us to recognize and embrace the possibilities of being alone—and reminds us of a universe of joy, peace, and discovery waiting to unfold.

This beautiful little hardcover book grew out of a 4.5 minute video sensation with five million YouTube hits. The question this poem asks is beautifully subversive. Why is it sometimes so difficult to be alone? How nonsensical to feel awkward or ashamed when we are not surrounded by a gaggle of friends.

But it isn't easy, is it? What a dope I feel like, just admitting it.

The book posits that feeling comfortable being alone is a skill worth acquiring, and it's hard to disagree. The poem, just a few words on each page, starts out with the assumption that being alone is not easy. "We could start with the acceptable places: the bathroom / the coffee shop / the library." And it builds from there, finding many new ways to be comfortable all alone.

My favorite page comes about 1/3 of the way through, and it's an important enough sentiment that it might as well be the book's subtitle. "Resist the urge to hang out with your cell phone." Surely that's this generation's greatest challenge, no? With our shiny digital friends, we can always bow our heads and shut the anonymous world out. In fact, if this were my book, I'd cut to the chase and title it: How to Put Down Your Phone.

This pretty book (which would probably make a lovely gift, come holiday time) wants us to try to find the real joy in our solitude. "Dance like nobody's watching. Because they're probably not."

Aside from the beautiful poem, the book's painted art, its handwritten text and its matte cloth cover are are gorgeous. Read it, and then pass it on to someone you love.

A picture book for grown-ups!

Disclaimer: the publisher provided a hard copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.