May 21, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

A World of One’s Own | An Essay by Daniel Miyares


As I finished the art for my new picture book, Night Out (Random, May, 2018), it dawned on me that aloneness is a recurring theme in the stories I tell. I can’t even pretend to consciously orchestrate all that goes into creating a compelling picture book. I can only listen closely to my thoughts and feelings. I never set out to tackle that theme. You might say it found me.

One of my favorite artists, Andrew Wyeth once said, “I think anything…which is contemplative, silent, shows a person alone—people always feel is sad. Is it because we’ve lost the art of being alone?” This quote made me wonder: Is there really an art to being alone?

I soon came to realize that there is a distinct difference between being alone and being lonely.  When I was a child I had an older brother and plenty of kids in the neighborhood to run around with. I didn’t want for friends. But I did crave those quiet moments when I could be alone—when I could close my eyes, and in the darkness, imagine. Sometimes I would squint until only flickers of light—a passageway to something new—could pass my eyelashes, and I would make up stories about the shapes I saw.

Daniel Miyares at work Photo by Stella Miyares

And then, when I came back to reality, I would start to draw! (At four years old I had discovered that with a pencil, paper, and a portion of courage I could explore anything I wanted.) Drawing quickly became my escape, my truth teller, my shield, my praise-getter, my own private joy.

As I grew older, I learned that one’s imagination is a vast, endless world that each of us, alone, has unlimited access to. Of course we can report back to others on what we see, but only we get to discover, firsthand, the wonders that live there. The words I write and the pictures I paint are my way of sharing all the places I’ve been.

In Night Out I wanted to show a child literally gaining access to his imagination. The story begins with a young boy who has reluctantly found himself alone among others. But it is just this solitude that enables him to discover a small thing that others miss; he finds an invitation to venture into the unknown. And despite his fear and uncertainty, he ventures forth….

I like to think of Night Out as a letter of encouragement to those who are feeling lonely in the face of aloneness–my personal invitation to young readers and listeners to escape into the wonders of your imagination.

Curriculum Connections

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Daryl Grabarek About Daryl Grabarek

Daryl Grabarek is the editor of School Library Journal's monthly enewsletter, Curriculum Connections, and its online column Touch and Go. Before coming to SLJ, she held librarian positions in private, school, public, and college libraries. Her dream is to manage a collection on a remote island in the South Pacific.

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