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Silent Music: A Story of Baghdad
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Silent Music: A Story of Baghdad

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating Details ·  394 Ratings  ·  109 Reviews
WHEN BOMBS BEGIN TO FALL, Ali drowns out the sould of war with a pen.
Like other children living in Baghdad, Ali loves soccer, music and dancing, but most of all, he loves the ancient art of calligraphy. When bombs begin to fall on his city, Ali turns to his pen, writing sweeping and gliding words to the silent music that drowns out the war all around him. Gorgeously illus
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published March 18th 2008 by Roaring Brook Press
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James Govednik
Sep 22, 2009 James Govednik rated it really liked it
Shelves: multicultural
In this book, Ali, from Baghdad, tells of his love of writing. Ali loves the calligraphy part of writing, the artistry of his native Arabic langauge that becomes his "silent music." Simply by sharing his likes and interests, and his challenges in trying to write beautiful words, Ali teaches us about his family, his culture and how he coped with bombs falling on Baghdad by...reaching for his pen. The author/illustrator has created a beautiful book that draws the reader in and also gives numerous ...more
أميرة هاني
Sep 28, 2015 أميرة هاني rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literature
Rumford is a genius!
Dec 04, 2016 Enas rated it really liked it
كتاب موسيقى الحروف..قصة عن بغداد لمؤلفه الأمريكي جيمس رمفورد يقدم صورة مختلفة عن بغداد وحياة الناس فيها ، خاصة الأطفال وكيف يعيشون أيامهم تحت رعب الحرب ، من خلال حكاية "علي" و هو طفل عراقي يعيش فى بغداد يحب لعب كرة القدم و الرقص و الموسيقي الشعبية الصاخبة ، و فن الخط العربي الذي يحتمي به من مآسي الحرب مستلهما ً مثال لمقاومة الحرب بالفن من الخطاط البغدادي الشهير ياقوت الذى عاصر غزو المغول لبغداد قبل قرون ، "علي" كولد صغير يستعمل الخط العربى كي يخلق عالم جميل يهرب إليه من عنف الحرب وشراستها ، فيص ...more
(NS) Lauren
Sep 26, 2009 (NS) Lauren rated it it was amazing
Shelves: multicultural

Grade Level: K-3 read-aloud

This is a moving story about a child in modern-day Iraq, coping with life in a war-torn country through his love of caligraphy. The author uses a powerful analogy as he describes the ease of writing the word war, relative to the difficult formation of the word peace. The illustrations in this book are intriguing layers of texture and design, with beautiful, caligraphy overlays. The story itself gives a real face to the Iraqi people, especially meaningful as an American
Joselyn Whitney
Jun 27, 2012 Joselyn Whitney rated it it was ok
Silent Music is a 2009 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

Audience: This book would be great for grades K-3. The illustrations in this book were absolutely beautiful but I can't help but think that this book would be hard to maintain the attention span of younger readers. It may be a good book to introduce when you are introducing cursive into the curriculum.

Appeal: The appeal for this book would be good if your students are really into writing and learning how to write. The book is
Patricia Holland
Mar 15, 2011 Patricia Holland rated it really liked it
Response: This is a beautifully illustrated book. The pictures are captivating and the story is beautiful. I like how with the fiction the author ties in several true facts. At the end of the book is an author’s note detailing more facts about calligraphy and Yakut.

Teaching Implication: This would be a great opportunity for students to practice calligraphy. I would research the correct way to write each of their names and make a project out of it. They could each write their names on a piece of
Apr 14, 2009 Cindi rated it it was amazing
This book addresses to some extent, the war in Iraq and looks through a child's eyes at the horror of war. I've been glad my kids could hear about it (books and classmates from Iraq) without having to live it. Some of the stories we've heard from first-hand accounts are so, so sad.

The Silent Music spoken of in the title is the written Arabic language. I had never realized just how beautiful it is. I love how the author discusses the calligraphy and displays it. Loved it! The patterns in the clot
Monique Clem
Jan 17, 2013 Monique Clem rated it liked it
Age group 7-10
James Rumford

This book was about a young boy living in Baghdad that loved to do things to take his mind off the fact that there was a war going on. His favorite thing to do above everything was calligraphy. He would practice and practice so that he would be able to be like his secret hero Yakut, a world famous calligrapher. He told stories of Yakut and how he wanted to be just like him.
Shaeley Santiago
Jun 07, 2011 Shaeley Santiago rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People learning Arabic
Recommended to Shaeley by: Nick Glass
Delightful book with beautiful pictures. Tells the story of a boy in Baghdad during the war who continues practicing his Arabic calligraphy working hard to write the word "peace." The book shows Roman characters in conjunction with the Arabic script. Reading around the world challenge - Middle East #bookaday
Jun 17, 2009 Rebecca rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: K and up
In this gorgeous book, Ali, a boy who lives in Baghdad, reflects on the power of calligraphy and writing to provide peace and escape during times of war. The illustrations' combination of patterns and use of collage is particularly gorgeous, especially when the silhouette of a stealth plane is transformed, Escher-style, into a dove. Many of the designs in Islamic art are based on tessellations.
Feb 27, 2009 Chad rated it it was amazing
From the same author as one of my favorite books on travelers, Traveling Man: The Journey of Ibn Batutta, James Rumford not only creates great art, but simple beauty with words and a great entryway into Arabic culture.
Aug 19, 2008 Crystal rated it really liked it
Great picture of a young boy in Baghdad. It shows the rich culture of the boy and includes a legend. The war is part of the story, but not the main focus.
May 03, 2016 Solley rated it it was amazing
A must read with your kids!
Mar 07, 2017 Lauren rated it it was amazing
This historical fiction book is set in Baghdad, and the story is told by a little boy named Ali. Calligraphy is Ali's passion and this story expresses how much he loves it. Even when Ali goes through hard times he turns to Calligraphy to distract him. He shares his passion with his friends and family. His idol is a very famous Calligrapher. This story shows that having something you feel passionate about can help you do great things.

This book is very beautiful, and shows how amazing calligraphy
A tribute to the beauty of Arabic calligraphy, wrapped up in the story of a contemporary boy and his hero, a famous calligrapher from 800 years ago. While the book is set against the backdrop of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, readers will connect with Ali's dedication to his favorite activity and the family scenes that could occur in any home around the world. The tapestry of calligraphy and images in the illustrations evoke the richness and depth of the written language Ali practices.
Feb 18, 2017 Gina rated it liked it
I had high hopes for this book based on the Goodreads description, but I found it to just be bland and even confusing. As an adult, I can tell you it was about the beauty of learning to write Arabic calligraphy and how the boy uses it as an escape from reality when the bombs come crashing down the same way a famous calligrapher did centuries before. It just needs something more.
Kristy Lange
Apr 15, 2013 Kristy Lange rated it liked it
Shelves: nbgs, picture-books
Silent Music is a book about a young boy named Ali who enjoys soccer, “parent-rattling music,” and calligraphy. Ali is growing up in Baghdad, and his greatest joy is to create beauty with the elegant art form that is calligraphy as his pen “dances to the silent music” in his head. Ali is compared by his mother to Yakut, the world’s most famous calligrapher. Yakut is Ali’s hero, and like Yakut, he uses calligraphy to create beauty and shut out the horror of the world around him. He vows to practi ...more
Jun 14, 2015 Michael rated it liked it
Text Set: Social Tragedy
Content Matter: War and its effect on the innocent
Published: 2008
Book 8

Silent Music is about a boy named Ali, from Baghdad, and love of writing in calligraphy and soccer. I think this was a clever move by the author, who knows that many students will not identify with calligraphy but will be able to relate with Ali through soccer. Through Ali's love of writing we meet his family, we learn about his culture, and he even introduces us to his cultural history. The illustrat
Jordan Croom

Silent Music: A Story of Baghdad, tells the story of Ali, a boy that is much like other boys in his city. He likes to play soccer in the streets, listen to music and dance, but there is one thing that sets Ali apart from the other kids, he enjoys the art of calligraphy. Ali gets lost in his art of writing calligraphy, and uses it as a form of escape. Calligraphy is his silent music that drowns out the war going on outside his door. This story brings together many different elements, connecting
Rummanah (Books in the Spotlight)
Silent Music is a beautiful book that brings hope and light behind the back drops of war torn Iraq. Ali is a simple boy who loves soccer, music, and above all calligraphy-forming the elegant Arabic letters, pen that move along to the silent music he hears in his head. Ali tells us that his secret hero is the famous artist Yakut, a renowned 13th-century calligrapher who is said to have fled to a high tower to shut out the violence by the Mongol invasion at Baghdad in 1258. Like his hero, Ali also ...more
Feb 17, 2011 Julia rated it really liked it
Ali is a young boy living in Baghdad during the American invasion of Iraq. Like most boys his age, Ali loves soccer, loud music, and dancing. Most of all, Ali loves calligraphy. This is a story of how the art of calligraphy fills a young boys mind with peace. Ari is inspired by Yakut, a 13th century calligrapher who escaped to a tower to avoid the evils of war. In the tower, "Yakut created beauty. He shut out the horror and wrote glistening letters of rhythm and grace." Ali, taking inspiration f ...more
Dec 30, 2008 Christina rated it it was ok
Shelves: kid-books
I'll start out by saying that the pictures are beautiful, and lyrical, and evocative of Baghdad so we should have some understanding of it.
That being said, there is one line that has really annoyed me. At one point, the work of 13th century calligrapher, Yakut is brought up as an influence for the young protagonist in the story. There is a Mongol invasion of Baghdad, and through it Yakut created beauty. Fast forward to 2003, and the writer passively states that, " (B)ombs and missles fell on my
Yesenia Sepulveda
The author, James Rumford, uses analogies to compare the calligraphy written by the main character. He compares the writing to a soccer ball gliding and looping around. This is sure to appeal to those children who are familiar with the sport. The book uses descriptive words to describe the setting of Baghdad and give you the feel of being there. Some descriptions used are: sand being kicked around, the sounds of bombs/war going on, the gliding of his pen when he makes calligraphy on his paper. R ...more
Published: 2008, Roaring Brook Press
Age: 7-12
Ali lives in Baghdad and likes to play soccer and listen to loud music: But most of all, he likes writing calligraphy. He compares it to watching a soccer game in slow motion. He describes how it goes from right to left and the loops and “masts” that turn. Ali tells the story of Yakut, the most famous calligrapher in the world who lived in 1258 when his city was bombed. He compares this bombing from over 800 years ago to the night in 2003 when it was
Sarah Sammis
Apr 12, 2011 Sarah Sammis rated it it was amazing
Silent Music by James Rumford tells the story of Ali who lives in Baghdad, loves loud music and soccer. When the bombings get too scary, he turns to the art of calligraphy, the "silent music" for comfort. His art is inspired by the words of master calligrapher Yakat who lived and worked 800 years ago.

Accompanying the text are intricate illustrations that weave together Ali's calligraphy with pictures from his life and that of Yakat's. It's done in a style evocative of Arabic mosaics. They appear
Kara Roberts
"WHEN BOMBS BEGIN TO FALL, Ali drowns out the sould of war with a pen. Like other children living in Baghdad, Ali loves soccer, music and dancing, but most of all, he loves the ancient art of calligraphy. When bombs begin to fall on his city, Ali turns to his pen, writing sweeping and gliding words to the silent music that drowns out the war all around him. Gorgeously illustrated with collage, pencil and charcoal drawings and, of course, exquisite calligraphy, this timely and yet universal story ...more
Jul 18, 2013 Briana rated it liked it
Shelves: picture-books
Summary: Ali is a young boy living in Baghdad during the war. He loves to play soccer, but he also finds peace through practicing his calligraphy.

Art: The artwork beautifully evokes Iraqi culture, employing rich, warm colors and plenty of geometric designs woven into the background and occasionally characters’ clothing. Calligraphy is also prominently featured throughout.

Review: Although the book has a few non sequiturs, changing abruptly from discussing Ali’s love of soccer to his love of calli
Cara Wilson
May 04, 2015 Cara Wilson rated it really liked it
Silent Music: A Story of Baghdad by James Rumford
Cara W., Spring 2015

Contemporary Realistic Fiction Picture Book

This book follows the story of a boy named Ali. Ali loves things that are typical to the common young boy. He likes sports and playing with friends. What makes Ali different is that he likes caligraphy. And when the bombs start hitting his hometown, Ali turns to the caligraphy to take him into a place where he feels safe.

This book made me kind of sad. We always talk about how war is go
Brittni Hover
This is book does a wonderful job showing multiculturalism. Ali loves to dance, play music, and soccer. His true love is the art of calligraphy. He practices his writing of calligraphy all the time. When his city started getting bombed and people were dying he would write to keep his mind off of it and away from it. The pictures in this book are amazing. There are so many great examples to see exactly what calligraphy is.

The writing trait that is evident in this book is ideas. The book is center
April Helms
A really neat story! Ali, a young boy who lives in Baghdad, is in many ways like most boys: he likes soccer, playing with his friends and "parent-rattling music" (that line made me laugh). But he also loves the art of calligraphy. Through the book, the reader sees various items from Iraq, in a sort of collage format. But the most interesting thing was the breakdown of some of the Arabic words. Another nice touch was how warm and vibrant the pages are when Ali is talking about his day-to-day acti ...more
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Review 1 3 Mar 31, 2015 02:19PM  
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I have been writing, illustrating, and designing children's books since 1996. I am on the verge of self-publishing through books that are printed on demand and via the internet. For more on my children's books, see my website: I also have a blog about writing and illustrating children's books at Besides commercially published books, ...more
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