Silent Music: A Story of Baghdad (2008) by James Rumford.
Such a beautiful book and an important one as American troops get ready to leave Iraq at the end of this year. It’s amazing to me how one little picture book can encapsulate so much: the exquisiteness of Arabic calligraphy, coping with the losses of war, kids being kids even in the shadow of war, the story of Yakut creating beautiful calligraphy during another war back in 1258.
I love playing soccer in the dusty street with my friends.
I love loud, parent-rattling music. And I love dancing.
But most of all, I love calligraphy — writing the letters of my language and making them go from right to left across the page.
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.
I have long appreciated Arabic calligraphy, but have never come across any good resources that explains it as succinctly as this book. Oh, the power of children’s books. Mightier than even the internet sometimes.
But in full disclosure, the ending caught me off guard a little.
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.
I get the sentiment — that we all can work on peace more than war. And yes, when you see the difference in the words written in Arabic, you’ll get this even more. But the implications of symbolically putting the work of peace on this young boy — or any child in Iraq left me feeling uneasy.
Even so, pick up Silent Music to see for yourself.