One of my favorite writers and speakers is Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Her Quiet Revolution website is as beautiful to look at as it is jam-packed with information and inspiration. One of Susan’s most exciting projects is her Quiet Leadership Institute, committed to helping introverts bring “their authentic selves to work inside corporate cultures that are, for the most part, extroverted in orientation.” For many introverts, learning to share their authentic selves with the world around them is a long journey.
Helping children to understand and fully embrace the value of their own and others’ introversion is a passion of mine. So many introverted children try to be like their extroverted friends and family members in an attempt to fit in or stand out. While mastering some extroverted skills can be valuable (and vice versa for extroverts), introverts both young and old often do so at the expense of self-knowledge and self-worth.
Enter a sparrow named Stanley.
Recently I have been fortunate to be involved in the publication of The Adventures of a Sparrow Named Stanley, a children’s picture book written by Betty Sydow and illustrated by Carolou Lennon Nelsen. Stanley is just old enough to leave his mother’s nest, and, once on his own, he tries to find and make friends by being like the colorful and flashy examples he finds in his environment—a football player and local hero, a singing canary, a diving loon, an acrobatic swooping bat. Every time, however, Stanley falls short, sometimes literally.
Not until a wise gray owl tells him to be true to himself does Stanley discover his place in the world and learns that he is a quiet leader whose gift is bringing other sparrows together.
Stanley’s author, Betty, says she chose a sparrow to tell Stanley’s story because the “sparrow is one of the most underrated birds and I wanted to tell the story of the importance of being the best you can be, no matter how unoriginal you think you are.”
There is more to this story. Betty is 89 years old, and Stanley’s illustrator, Carolou, is just one year behind her at 88—themselves powerful examples of quiet leadership, sustained creativity, and lifelong learning.
Learn more in this news story from Milwaukee’s WTMJ and the media links below.
- “80 Somethings from Wauwatosa Publish Children’s Book” (CBS 58 Video Story)
- “Betty Sydow Fulfills Bucket List“: A published author at 89, Betty Sydow, brings to life The Adventures of a Sparrow Named Stanley, in her children’s book at a reading for preschoolers at Lutheran Home & Harwood Place in Wauwatosa. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel photo essay)
- “Wauwatosa Harwood Place residents, ages 88, 89, publish children’s book” (Wauwatosa Now)