Like any great story, “I Get Loud” and its message is multi-faceted, just like its multi-talented author, illustrator, artist and musician David Ouimet. I fell in love with David’s story-telling and illustrative style when I reviewed the prequel to this book “I Go Quiet”, so please forgive me if ‘I get loud’ with exuberance for this next instalment.
In the prequel to “I Get Loud”, an introverted girl felt timid, alone and out of place: “I am different. I am the note that’s not in tune. I go mousy. I go grey. I sing silence as loud as I can.”
David Ouimet spoke of this character emanating from a deeply personal experience, that of witnessing his own daughter’s struggle with personal anxieties and finding a way forward by connecting with books. The little girl in the story discovers a library and a world of infinite possibilities through books: “I read that every living thing is a part of me. I think I may be part of everything too. I am not so different. And I am not small.” She returns home that night affirming that one day she “will make a shimmering noise”.
“I Get Loud” – Book Review
In “I Get Loud” the same young girl is thrust into an adventure of hope and self-discovery that leads to a new friendship and a sense of togetherness. Displaced from their beautiful world alongside many others, these two companions must flee their homes and embark on a perilous journey, sailing to unknown lands in pursuit of safety.
Along the way, they get separated and our little heroine is once again afraid: “Alone, I go quiet…”. I shrink in anticipation of what the next page turn will reveal…
The words that follow come floating off the page like lyrics of a song begging to be sung “Sometimes, the wind binds what was broken. In the jumble of voices I hear the only one I know. I shout, you gasp; I mew, you roar.” Reunited, their voices harmonise with each other as they carve out a place in their new world.
As discussed in my earlier review of “I Go Quiet”, David Ouimet’s musical past had a huge influence on his story-telling style. He credits his musical skillset as invaluable for conceiving and creating picture books. In an interview with Just Imagine (a UK based literacy and training resources provider), David said “there is something uniquely musical about a picture book. You can read it in ten minutes and then dive into it over and over again like a favourite song”. The rhythm, intervals, harmonies, consonance and dissonance all play an important part in his narrative construct, both for its poetic language and dreamlike imagery.
David describes “I Go Quiet” as a draining, emotional experience due to the uneasiness of its message, which was so close to his heart, whereas the sequel has been a liberating journey. “I Get Loud” also explores uneasy themes, such as displacement (don’t we all feel displaced from our normal lives and loved ones during this pandemic?). However, it is a manifesto of the power of friendship and the strength of the human spirit, which fuels hope for a better future.
Sometimes the wind breaks what was bound, We know how colours can fade and light can drown when our roots are puled from our broken ground.
Like its prequel, “I Get Loud” blends the traditional picture book storytelling format with the graphic novel style. The narrative told through colour illustrations is interspersed twice by black-and-white spreads without words. In the first instance, the black-and-white spread tells of the harrowing journey across the sea and the separation of the two friends during their struggle against the storm, when one of the girls loses her grip on a rope that tethers their boats together. The second section tells about the two friends reunion after finding each other in their new land. Lines, ropes and strings appear to be used throughout the book as a symbolic web of connection which is formed, broken and finally mended.
During the darkest times of hardship, confusion and uncertainty we all need to know that we are not alone and that together we shall overcome anything. I think these concluding lines of “I Get Loud” are a mantra of hope for all of us:
Our songs will rise; our voices will surge. Because we are louder together. We are bound by endless stories. Our sounds are stairs, singing. Our worlds are windows, laughing. Our hearts are our home shimmering; with you I get loud.
I love this story, because it affirms ‘the power of two’. As a kite soars up into the blue skies, our souls soar when we have found our soulmate. That one person with whom we can share our lives, dreams, fears and weird idiosyncrasies and whose acceptance empowers us to speak up, be courageous and embrace life in good times and bad. In David Ouimet’s poetic summation, it is the person to whom one can say “with you I get loud”.
David Ouimet – Artist, Author, illustrator and Musician
David Ouimet is a New-York based artist who has excelled in a variety of artistic pursuits including film, street art, music and more recently as a writer and illustrator. This over-achiever grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, (home of Elvis and many great musical legends) in a music-oriented family, so it’s probably not surprising that David became a musician. He found success as a member of rock bands such as Cop Shoot Cop, Firewater and Sulfur, and recorded and toured with a number of others. In the 1990’s he formed a gypsy punk band called Motherhead Bug as songwriter, vocalist and trombonist. His interest in illustration saw him design all of Motherhead Bug’s album and single covers. Check out some Motherhead Bug tracks here.
David also illustrated books of other authors. His art then found its way to the streets of Beijing, Tokyo and NYC and his signature ‘hoodiebirds’ street art murals are now famous the world over and have acquired somewhat of a cult following. Blessed with charismatic looks he has also found success as a model and has been featured in magazines, billboards, and major international advertising campaigns.
David tells of being a voracious reader growing up, and dreamt of creating his own picture books. He attempted it a few times, however, it never felt quite right until “I Go Quiet” and its sequel. “I Go Quiet” certainly felt right to many in the literary world, having won the 2020 East Sussex Children’s Book Award, shortlisted for the 2021 West Australian Young Readers Book Award in the Picture Book category which is judged by the children (who are in my opinion the most honest and reliable critics) and, drumroll… short-listed for none other than the 2021 Kate Greenaway Award, one of the most prestigious illustrating awards in the world.
David Ouimet is currently working on a new book for very young children, which includes his signature “hoodiebirds”, the character from his street art. Birds make appearances in both “I Go Quiet” and “I Get Loud”. For David, birds, especially crows and ravens, symbolize rebirth and new beginnings.
His first two books have become familiar to me now, like favourite songs I like to turn up loud and sing along with over and over again. I’m looking forward to adding another from this talented artist to my favourite’s playlist.
Enjoy browsing more of the emotionally charged illustrations from “I Get Loud” below.
Title: “I Get Loud”
Author: David Ouimet
Publisher: Canongate Books