A Sound Like Someone Trying Not to Make a Sound


WHEN A YOUNG BOY wakes up in the middle of the night, an unfamiliar sound conjures frightening images in his mind.

Children everywhere can now enjoy John Irving’s story about nighttime uncertainties, A Sound Like Someone Trying Not to Make a Sound. Originally found within Irving’s ninth novel, A Widow for One Year, this atmospheric tale has...
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WHEN A YOUNG BOY wakes up in the middle of the night, an unfamiliar sound conjures frightening images in his mind.

Children everywhere can now enjoy John Irving’s story about nighttime uncertainties, A Sound Like Someone Trying Not to Make a Sound. Originally found within Irving’s ninth novel, A Widow for One Year, this atmospheric tale has been brought to life by Tatjana Hauptmann’s beautifully muted illustrations.

Includes an introduction by the author.

When Tom is awakened by the sound of a "monster," he tells his father what he thinks he heard.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Irving's first book for children, an atmospheric story originally included as part of his adult novel A Widow for One Year, introduces wide-eyed Tom, pictured in adorably rumpled pajamas. The boy wakes up in the night to a mysterious sound. "It was a sound like, in the closet, if one of Mommy's dresses came alive and it tried to climb off the hanger," he explains to his unseen father. Tom then pads around the house, solo, in search of the source. Irving credibly captures the imagined fears of a child jolted out of sleep: "It seemed to Tom that the sound was definitely the sound of an armless, legless monster dragging its thick, wet fur." Using broad pencil strokes and watercolor wash, Hauptmann (A Day in the Life of Petronella Pig) creates a world of moonlit blue shadows where innocent objects a coat in a closet, a crumpled sweater take on eerie aspects. The book's large format and empty-feeling spreads enhance the creepiness quotient. Yet the artist tempers the mood by picturing the wide-eyed boy always accompanied by his animated teddy bear under the full moon's light. The visuals may cause a few shivers, but the story ends on a reassuring note: "A mouse crawling in the walls!... That's all it was!" says Tom. In showing young readers that the things that go bump in the night are, in reality, not so scary, Irving succeeds in helping them confront their fears. Ages 4-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Irving has taken this story from his novel A Widow for One Year, which is about a writer for children. In the middle of the night Tom wakes up, while his little brother stays asleep. So he wakes his father, asking if he heard a sound, "like a monster..." Tom tries to describe the sound in many ways, culminating with the title of the book. As his father listens for the sound with him, even his brother wakes up. "It's just a mouse," his father tries to reassure him. "Just hit the wall." Tom then can go back to sleep. But little Tim, not knowing what a mouse is, stays awake all night listening and hitting the wall. The strange tale is not too frightening, but Hauptmann's illustrations, single pages opposite text followed frequently by textless double-page spreads, create a mood of anxiety which even adults can feel. She uses scratchy colored pencil strokes to produce interior scenes empty of all but a piece or two of furniture, rumpled clothes hanging on hooks, shadows from the moonlight through mullioned windows, etc. And of course, tousle-haired Tom in his too-big pajamas leads us through the dark house with his bear in this mood piece that leaves a lot to the imagination. The author's introduction relates the story to his experiences with his own children. 2003 (orig. 1998), Doubleday Books for Young Readers/Random House Children's Books, Ages 4 to 8.
—Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2-Tom wakes up frightened after hearing a noise in the middle of the night and navigates the dark house to find his father. The boy's remarkably descriptive imagination envisions "a monster with no arms and no legs" that "slides on its fur"-and astute viewers will see occasional bulges in the walls and fluttering clothing that complement this description. When his father comes to his room, he has a simple explanation for the noise: there is a mouse in the wall. This answer soothes Tom, but disturbs his younger brother who lies awake imagining his own monster. Dark, atmospheric illustrations capture the unease a child may feel wandering around a sleeping house, as well as the shadows that transform everyday objects into scarier sights. However, the story the artwork tells seems to be a different one from that of the text, and literal-minded youngsters may not make the leap. The father is present throughout most of the narrative, but never appears in the pictures. The text itself is a bit too complex for the intended audience, and the emphasis on frightening details detracts from the comfort of the father's simple explanation. Originally published as a children's story within the author's adult novel, A Widow for One Year (Random, 1998), this offering doesn't stand on its own.-Tana Elias, Meadowridge Branch Library, Madison, WI Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Fears and fantasies fill the mind of a small boy who wakes to unfamiliar sounds in the night in this tale excerpted from Irving's A Widow for One Year. When he fails to awaken Tim, his sleeping younger brother, Tom calls upon his father to investigate the strange sounds he describes as a "monster with no arms and legs" that "slides on its fur" and "pulls itself along on its teeth." Suspense builds as Tom searches the dark house for the nameless monster, which his father anti-climatically identifies as "just a mouse crawling between the walls." But by this time, Tim is awake, left to wonder about the crawling mouse. Hazy pencil drawings in muted blues, grays, and greens surround pajama-clad Tom in shadows, wordlessly intensifying the mood of nocturnal fear. Perfect for anyone who fears things that go bump in the night. (Picture book. 4-7)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385746809
  • Publisher: Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 9/28/2004
  • Pages: 40
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 11.12 (w) x 10.37 (h) x 0.41 (d)

Meet the Author

John Irving is the author of numerous novels for adults, including A Widow for One Year, The Cider House Rules, A Prayer for Owen Meany, and The World According to Garp. He lives in Vermont and Toronto.

Tatjana Hauptmann has illustrated many children’s picture books in Europe. She lives in Zurich, Switzerland.


It was as a struggling, withdrawn student at Phillips Exeter, the New Hampshire prep school where his stepfather taught Russian history, that John Irving discovered the two great loves of his life: writing and wrestling. Modestly, he attributes his success in both endeavors to dogged perseverance. "My life in wrestling was one-eighth talent and seven-eighths discipline," he confessed in his 1996 mini-memoir The Imaginary Girlfriend. "I believe that my life as a writer consists of one-eighth talent and seven-eighths discipline, too."

Certainly, patience and stamina have served Irving well -- in both wrestling (he competed until he was 34, coached well into his 40s, and was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1992) and writing. His first book, Setting Free the Bears, was published in 1968 to respectable reviews but sold poorly. Over the course of the next ten years, he wrote two more unsuccessful novels (The Water-Method Man and The 158-Pound Marriage).

Then, in 1978, Irving hit the jackpot with The World According to Garp, a freewheeling comic saga incorporating motifs he would revisit many times over -- feminism, adultery, violence, grotesquerie, and an overriding sense of impending doom. Garp received a National Book Award nomination and became an instant cult classic. It also paved the way for a string of bestsellers, including The Hotel New Hampshire, The Cider House Rules, A Prayer for Owen Meaney, and The Fourth Hand, to name a few.

While none of his novels are strictly autobiographical, Irving has never denied that certain elements from his life have seeped into his books, most notably the pervading "presence" of his biological father, John Wallace Blunt, a man Irving never knew. Raised by his mother and a stepfather he loved dearly, Irving had denied for years any curiosity about his absent parent, but the figure of the missing father haunted his writing like a specter. In 2005, he laid the ghost to rest with the publication of Until I Find You, a searing story that took shape slowly and painfully over the better part of a decade. Writing the novel also allowed the author to wrestle with a closely guarded secret from his past -- just like the novel's protagonist Jack Burns, Irving was sexually abused as a preteen by an older woman. In an eerily timed coincidence, while he was crafting the novel, Irving was contacted by a man named Chris Blunt, who identified himself as the son of Irving's biological father. Twenty years younger than Irving, his half-brother told Irving that their father had died in 1995. Although Irving was devastated by the experience, he now feels as if he is able to turn the page and move on.

In addition to his novels, Irving has also written a collection of short stories and essays (1995's Trying to Save Piggy Sneed) and several screenplays, including his Oscar-winning adaptation of The Cider House Rules. He chronicled the experience of bringing his novel to the screen in the 1999 memoir My Movie Business.

Good To Know

  • Irving struggled in school with a learning disability that was probably undiagnosed dyslexia. Today, he considers it something of a blessing. Forced to read slowly, he savored each word and literally fell in love with language and literature.

  • In a 2001 interview with the now-defunct Book magazine, Irving confessed, "The characters in my novels, from the very first one, are always on some quixotic effort of attempting to control something that is uncontrollable -- some element of the world that is essentially random and out of control."

  • Although the results have been mixed at best, film versions have been made of several Irving novels, including The World According to Garp, The Hotel New Hampshire, and The Cider House Rules, which won for Irving a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar. In addition, the movie Simon Birch was loosely based on A Prayer for Owen Meaney, and the first third of Irving's novel A Widow for One Year became the acclaimed film The Door in the Floor.

  • One of Irving's great literary influences was Kurt Vonnegut, his teacher and mentor at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. The two writers remained close friends until Vonnegut's death in 2007.

  • Irving has two tattoos: a maple leaf (in honor of his Canadian wife) on his left shoulder, and the starting circle of a wrestling match on his right forearm.

  • The influence of Charles Dickens is evident in Irving's novels, sprawling epics with huge casts of colorful, eccentric characters and lots of complex plot points that crop up, disappear for hundreds of pages, then resurface unexpectedly. He writes voluminously and in great detail; he refuses to use a computer; and he begins at the end, writing the last sentence of each novel first. He describes himself as a craftsman and claims that he owes his success more to rewrites, ruthless editing, and infinite patience than to artistic genius.

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      1. Also Known As:
        John Wallace Blunt, Jr.
      2. Hometown:
      1. Date of Birth:
        March 2, 1942
      2. Place of Birth:
        Exeter, New Hampshire
      1. Education:
        B.A., University of New Hampshire, 1965; also studied at University of Vienna; M.F.A., Iowa Writers' Workshop, 1967

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