I Get Loud

Authored by David Ouimet
Illustrated by David Ouimet
Published by Canongate

I Get Loud is the second picturebook that David Ouimet has both written and illustrated as a solo creator.  His first, I Go Quiet, shortlisted for the CILIP KateGreenway award, received a great deal of love and admiration and some seriously high praise from fellow authors.  There’s a common theme in that praise.  Take Neil Gaiman for example: ‘I wish this book had been around when I was a child: I would not have felt quite so alone.’  This was not the only praise gracing I Go Quiet’s cover, much of it riffing on the idea that this was just the book for those quiet-type children, whose best friends tended to come in book (or some other textual) form.

I Go Quiet was recommended to me on so many occasions.  I listened.  I bought it.  And then, truthfully, it didn’t speak to me. That seems fair enough.  As a self-declared introvert, who has often been challenged on the confidence front, there have been countless times when I haven’t spoken to others a great deal, so who am I to judge?  But it was jarring because, based on the recommendations, I felt the book should speak to me.  As an introvert. As someone who had been once been far happier in the company of books.  As someone who had had a brutally, painfully difficult time at secondary school.  But when anyone asked what I thought, I just went quiet.

It’s only after listening to David Ouimet talk with Nikki Gamble and after some further reading that I have come to properly appreciate I Go Quiet. I understand how it is focused on the interior world of its main character.  If I am going to claim some introvert kinship, the very least I must do is acknowledge that no two interior worlds are the same. And if you spend a long time musing in that interior space, you’re going to assemble all kinds of unique detail.

Where I Go Quiet has isolation and anxiety drawn across and into its landscapes, I Get Loud is more about making connections and moving out into new spaces.   These movements are expressed in both physical and mental terms. Some are voluntary and tentative, in particular the movement towards friendship. That tentativeness, that sense of “dare I take a chance here?” spoke to me loud and clear. Such a scary leap, for some of us, at some points of our life that whispers “dare I be open to this?” when me-being-me has not played out too well in the social world.  And from that leap, the discovery of new voices – a very particular kind of getting loud.

Elsewhere in the book, some movements are enforced. The book explores displacement and throws all manner of tests at this central friendship.  As such the themes and images of the book open up well beyond a singular, interior world. Some of these stretches of movement, presented in wordless panels, offer new dynamics to this second book. The style of illustration varies but not the quality.  Like I Go Quiet it’s an unquestionably beautiful book – only a differently beautiful book.  Given some of the more fantastical qualities of the images, the book opens up space for discussion that can sometimes be closed off by specificity. In this, it might call to mind Shaun Tan’s Arrival, although they are markedly different books. Just as I Go Quiet, and I Get Loud are markedly different.  Markedly different, but richly connected and, just like I Get Loud’s protagonists, for me, they make so much more sense together.

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