- ISBN: 9781596432765 | 1596432764
- Cover: Hardcover
- Copyright: 3/18/2008
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
Ad 7-10 yrs
Rumford, whose interest in non-European languages has brought young readers Sequoyah (BCCB 1/05) and Seeker of Knowledge (BCCB 4/00), offers here a fictional tale of a young Iraqi boy whose interests comprise not only soccer and “loud, parent-rattling music”, but also Arabic calligraphy. Ali’s dedication to developing his skill prompts his mother to nickname his Yakut, after a thirteenth century calligrapher who “shut out the horror” of a Mongol invasion by fleeing to a tower where he could write in peace. And that, indeed, is just what Ali has done_ blocking out his fear during the 2003 invasion to “[fill] his mind with peace.” Having remarked that many words are easier to form than others , he closes with the weighty observation that “war” flows easily off the pen, while “peace” is much more challenging to master. Clothing and backgrounds are rendered in dense geometric patterns of Arabic decorative art, while text boxes, snippets of Ali’s writing, and an assortments of jottings in various formats are layered into mixed-media collages in radiant, strongly contrasting hues. The view of one boy’s experience in a war-torn country is compelling, especially in light of the historic precedent. Having hooked his audience on the beauty, elegance, and skill of Ali’s craft, however, Rumford gives no real explanation of how written language is constructed (apart from its right to left direction); the few Western alphabet letters he occasionally lays alongside an Arabic word do little to help audiences visualize how or where the component strokes are joined. Children inspired to attempt a bit of calligraphy on their own will therefore need to look elsewhere for guidance, but this may be an inviting peek for Western children into another culture. EB
Jane Addams Children's Book Award Press Release
Silent Music: A Story of Baghdad written and illustrated by James Rumford, an Honor Book for Younger Children, is a Neal Porter Book/Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group. Ali, a boy living in Baghdad today, loves soccer, parent-rattling music, dancing, and, most of all, calligraphy. His lively life, extended family and thoughtful nature flow from pages that weave calligraphy, intricate patterns and backdrops of golden brown into their design. Drawing strength from explicit visual and textual references to Iraq’s long history of literacy, the story of Ali’s passionate practice of calligraphy, first, highlights the power of literacy as a creative force in the midst of war, then, as a metaphor, invites reflection on the difficulty of practicing peace.