Silent Music by James Rumford is a wonderful yet heartwrenching tale of a young Iraqi boy named Ali who loves to play soccer, listen to loud music and practice calligraphy. As he practices the intricate Arabic letters of simple words and family names, 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."
Or this, "Writing a long sentence is like watching a soccer player in slow motion as he kicks the ball across the field, as I leave a trail of dots and loops behind me."
Ali and his family live a normal, middle-class life until a "frightening night in the year 2003" when a series of long night of bombing forever changes their city of Bagdad. Ali stays up all night during th bombing and practices his calligraphy over and over trying to fill his mind with peace.
As the months of war turn into years, Ali notes:
"It's funny how easily my pen glides down the long, sweeping hooks of the word 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 pallette of the illustrations reflect the sun-kissed tones of a desert landscape as well as the intricate and vibrant patterns of traditional Muslim art and decoration.
This would be an excellent story to discuss the impact of war with young children. By seeing Ali as a boy much like themselves, children can learn about the disruption of life that war causes. As the war in Iraq continues after five years, we can only wonder what has happened to all the families like Ali's who were once living a life very similar to our own and that now has been forever changed.