Silent Music, A story of Baghdad by James Rumford doesn’t seem at first glance to be a story about war and that may be the best approach to take in reading to our children about difficult subjects. In Silent Music, the little boy, Ali, who lives in Baghdad, loves to write his letters. He seems to love to write as much as yours truly likes to read. Perhaps my readers have some personal passion they can relate to? Ali describes the feel and beauty he experiences when he draws his Arabic script; sometimes the letters are flowing easily, other times they are stiff and awkward. But always, he has the sense that he is making ‘silent music’ with his letters. Then one night he uses his writing to get himself through the bombing of his city. He notes how easy it is to write the word ‘war’ and how difficult to write the word ‘peace’, shalom. How ironic.
And now for my favorite! Even though I enjoyed the other three books very much, this last one touched me most deeply. Perhaps it is because it is set in my own country, I do not know. It could be that, but I think it is the book itself and the author’s mystical writing style. For one thing, the text is written as if it were verse, which gives it an almost poetical feel. You will see what I mean when you open the cover. And then there is Kek, himself, the little Sudanese refugee who has come to America on the ‘flying boat’ but finds living here ‘hard work’ due to cold ‘like claws on skin’, sun that ‘burns your eyes’, dead trees, and no cows. Poor Kek is a fish out of water in our technological civilization. He is used to green, warmth, livestock and free movement; he has come to white, cold, metal and confinement. But Kek is known as a boy who ‘finds sun when the sky is dark’ and indeed he does find and make his way in this strange new world. As the story progresses you see the beauty and perfection in Applegate’s title, Home of the Brave.