Silent Music: A Story of Baghdad by James Rumford

Silent Music: A Story of Baghdad by James Rumford


A children’s book about Arabic calligraphy, war, and a boy in Iraq, I would imagine doesn’t appeal to a large population of readers.  Written on an AR level 3.8 and 32 pages long, I wish it did.  For the children, and adults that do take the time to find the rhythm in the simple words, and pause to get lost in the intricately detailed pictures, the book is a gift.


Ali, like kids the world over, loves soccer and music and friends.  But most of all he loves calligraphy and secretly admires his hero, Yakut, a calligrapher from Baghdad who lived 800 years ago.  When the bombs start to fall he finds solace in the silent music of creating something beautiful instead.


The way the calligraphy is described is poetry in action, “Writing a long sentence is like watching a soccer player in slow motion as he kicks the ball across the field.”  And poignantly he shares with the reader that war is so much easier than peace, by showing how much easier the word HARB (war) flows from his pen, compared to the stubborn shaped letters in the word SALAM (peace).


The book does not detail the war or the atrocities over the years the people of Baghdad have endured.  But by mentioning war and the need to escape, will hopefully allow discussion to flow about Iraq, about Islam, about calligraphy and ultimately about peace. There is an author’s note at the end that helps facilitate this further discussion.


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