Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Review: Silent Music

A Story of Baghdad by James Rumford. Roaring Brook Press, 2008. Library copy. This is a truly beautiful book. Ali is a young boy living in Baghdad who loves soccer, "loud, parent-rattling music", dancing, and calligraphy. He says, "I love to make the ink flow - from my pen stopping and starting, gliding and sweeping, leaping, dancing to the silent music in my head." He compares the lines of ink in a long sentence to soccer players moving across the field in slow motion. He exclaims over the beauty of letters looping across the page in flowing shapes. And he shares how he struggles over some words that tangle the ink in knots.

Throughout the story there are examples of Arabic in lovely calligraphy, showing us the names of his family members and some basic vocabulary like "cat" and "camel". The warm, loving community of his family and friends bring us into his world. The art work is fascinating collages of texture and prints, drawings of his family and friends layered over samples of money, receipts, tickets, lists, stamps, and the fabulous calligraphy of the famous Yakut who lived in Baghdad eight hundred years ago and is still revered today.

Yakut wrote in a tower during a war, making beauty in a terrifying situation. Ali write into the night while Baghdad is bombed in 2003, trying to find beauty in a world of war. He ends the book with the startling insight,
"It's funny how easily my pen glides down the long, sweeping hooks of the work HARB - war... how stubbornly it resists me when I make the difficult waves and slanted staff of SALAM - peace... how much I have to practice until this word flows freely from my pen."
The collages on that page move from a scramble of fencing with stealth bombers circling to a filed of lilies and clouds with doves rising. This is a such a wonderful book! Any class doing readers and writers workshop would find so much to exclaim over and draw from this book. Use it also to teach the Quaker SPICES of Peace and Integrity. Highly recommended for home or school.

1 comment:

jama said...

I'm so glad you reviewed this! I've been wanting to read it for awhile, but hadn't gotten around to it. I had the pleasure of meeting Jim in Hawaii years ago when his first book came out (Cloudmakers). He's a beautiful human being.