The Other Way to Listen

by Bird Baylor and Peter Parnall
Atheneum, 1978

Category: Picture Book

These days, my life is boxes and newspapers and packing up to move. I’m slow at this task, especially now that I am smack in the middle of boxing up my library. I’ve got a few (too many) books, and being both anal and geeky, have always wanted to catalog them. This seems the perfect opportunity. So, before I box them, I’ve been adding each and every title to my LibraryThing page.

The other thing that slows me some is reading. Each time I pull an old beloved off the shelf, I’m tempted to clear a spot on the couch and visit with it a while. That happened this morning with Byrd Baylor and Peter Parnall’s THE OTHER WAY TO LISTEN. And I’ll tell you this: reading this book is a fine way to start a day.  One might argue a reading of this picture book as the finest way to start every day.

On the surface, it’s a quiet picture book about a young girl and an old man and the one trying to learn from the other how to listen. Really listen.

“He was so


at listening—


he heard

wildflower seeds

burst open,


to grow


My kids have heard this story before, but humored me and listened to it again this morning. It still confuses them, as I think it would have confused me once, too. (You know, back when I was more literal … and not so good at listening.) Like the old man and his protege in the story, I can’t really teach my kids what the book means. But I can box it up and move it over to the new house, keep it safe on my shelf, read it to them now and again. Encourage them to think on other ways to listen.  Remind them,

“you have to

learn it


the hills

and ants

and lizards

and weeds

and things

like that.

They do

the teaching

around here.”