Author tries to teach importance of quietness

The Associated Press
Friday June 29, 2001

NEW YORK — This is about the mouse that didn’t roar. 

An anthropomorphic cartoon mouse, star character of “Listen to the Raindrops,” is the latest recruit in the campaign to persuade kids and their elders that too much noise can not only drown out the simple, pleasurable sounds of life but hurt their hearing and learning. 

“Listen to the tick-tock 

...of the clock 

“Listen to the key turn 

...in the lock,” says the mouse, as it cocks its ear to capture sounds often lost under the thunder of machines and traffic. 

Just published by the League for the Hard of Hearing in New York City, the book is destined, the organization hopes, to homes, schools, libraries and ultimately, into the consciousness of very young children to help them avoid learning 

and hearing problems caused by  

excessive noise. 

It’s light entertainment for a child but a serious part of the League’s “Stop That Noise” campaign to get the public to listen up about the dangers of noise. 

” ‘Listen..’ helps us fill an important niche in these efforts, by reaching very young kids, and is in every state of the union,” says Joseph Brown, League spokesman. 

No pricey public relations consultants were called in to dream it up. Both author and artist of this brief rhyming tale to be read by or to young children have long been dedicated to the dual causes of quiet and hearing. 

For Arline Bronzaft, the author, it’s her first children’s book. Bronzaft’s landmark study about the deleterious effects of subway noise on children’s learning, done in 1975 as her doctorate dissertation, established her reputation as one of the country’s leading authorities on noise pollution. Since then her expertise has been sought for issues as diverse as air flight patterns and decibel levels in New Orleans’ French Quarter. 

For the artist, Steve Parton, it’s very personal. His daughter, Caitlin, lost her hearing to meningitis at 22 months and at 2 years became one of the first and youngest recipients of a cochlear implant. Parton, a professional artist who has illustrated children’s books and created animated sequences for Broadway and television, has been active with the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and the League for the Hard of Hearing. 

With the implant, Caitlin, now 15, was able to master language and join mainstream school classes. She’s an honors student at a suburban high school, active on the school newspaper and, according to her mother, Melody James, enjoys all types of music. 

Bronzaft recalls she resisted at first when a friend and colleague, the late children’s author Augusta Goldin, told her she must write a children’s book with a message about noise. 

“It wasn’t my thing. It wasn’t my field,” she says. Her writing has been academic, based on her research into noise, education and psychology. But she started jotting down lines on the way home from her visit to Goldin. 

“Within an hour, I had the whole thing written. It was just as it is in its final form. 

“It was in verse, but I wasn’t even aware I had written it that way.” 

What a reader will notice in the book is ears. Big ones. In one drawing, the mouse is shown with ears stretching clear across a double-page spread. 

“Because it was about sound, I was interested in creatures with ears,” Parton says. “So we went down from elephants to mice. And it just made sense to use a mouse because that’s what you would expect to find in such a noisy place like New York City, where I lived.” 

Where there are, as the text says, “Airplane roars,/ firecrackers,/ and jackhammers,/ honking horns, sirens,/ and door slammers.” 

Bronzaft received the book’s first “review” from her toddler granddaughter, Alexandra Rose Santoro. 

“When she came to that page that shows all the things that make bad noise — the airplanes, jackhammers, sirens — she banged her fist on the page and shouted, ’No! No!’ ” 


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