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

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  521 ratings  ·  141 reviews
WHEN BOMBS BEGIN TO FALL, Ali drowns out the sound 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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Average rating 4.02  · 
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 ·  521 ratings  ·  141 reviews

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Jasmine from How Useful It Is
May 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library
Borrowed this book from the library and read it for my son before nap time. This is an amazing book! It introduced us to calligraphy and arabic writing. The illustrations is awesome! The story is moving yet too violent for kids because it talks about bombings in Baghdad in 2003 and mentioned about killing a number of people in another attack from the Mongols. I might not read this book to a 5 year old had I known of the violence.
James Govednik
Sep 22, 2009 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
Jun 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to booklady by: Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
Very enjoyable book about a little Iraqi boy who loves to write as much as I love to read. I could relate to his passion and fascination with letters, words, seeing their shapes on a page and feeling their differences inside. The illustrations were also bright, colorful, compelling and worth the book in themselves. Thanks Krista!
Sep 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children
Rumford is a genius!
(NS) Lauren
Sep 26, 2009 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 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
Apr 14, 2009 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
Patricia Holland
Mar 15, 2011 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
Monique Clem
Jan 17, 2013 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.
Jun 17, 2009 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.
Shaeley Santiago
Jun 07, 2011 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
Feb 27, 2009 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 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 rated it it was amazing
A must read with your kids!
Destiney Dickson
May 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Literature Requirement: Picture book for older readers
Number of pages: 32
Grade level: 1-5
Age level: 6-10
Genre: Fiction
Copyright: 2008 James Rumford
Book Format: Hardcover/picture book

Ali lives in Baghdad and he enjoys soccer, music and dancing. However, more than anything he loves calligraphy. He practices his calligraphy every single day all day long. He practices writing on everything that he can. Some words are harder than others to write but he does not give up. Like the great calligrapher Ya
Nov 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Teaches kids about coping with war and practicing to become better
Rachael Fricke
"Silent Music" tells a story of a young boy who prefers to work on perfecting his calligraphy over playing soccer. Although he loves soccer, he compares writing calligraphy to playing soccer, and the "dance" the players do on the field is like writing calligraphy. This story is simple to read and has some really good information about it regarding calligraphy and Baghdad. Those features would make this story a great book to use in a history lesson. I would definitely recommend this short childre ...more
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
Jun 14, 2015 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
Mindy Hall
This is a BEAUTIFUL book -- both the story and the illustrations. It is appropriate for any age -- from young children to adults. I used this book when I taught 7th grade Medieval World History during my unit on the rise and spread of Islam. It ties the old with the new. I recommend it for anybody!
Caroline Hancock
This book depicts a very vivid image for students. It’s one of the more realistic books I’ve read.
Sarah Sammis
Apr 12, 2011 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
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
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 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 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
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
Nov 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 1-international
Summary: Ali lives in Baghdad. He loves the art of Calligraphy. The book introduced the reader to the art and the famous Calligrapher Yakut. Ali is a normal kids like everyone else. He plays soccer, loves music and dancing. Life for Ali is different though. He is living in a time of war in Baghdad. He hides in his room during a bombing, using his calligraphy as an escape from his life. He longs for peace.

Opinion: I really liked this book. It was a sad look at a boy who is living in an area of tu
Rishi De La Fuente
Nov 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a story about a boy name Ali who lives in Baghdad, Iraq. He loves writing in calligraphy and playing soccer. Calligraphy is his silent music that drowns out the war going on outside his door. I think this book is a great way for children to connect to other cultures. Younger children will be engrossed in the flowing story of Ali and his beautiful calligraphy. Teachers and students can discuss and explore different cultures. They can compare similarities and differences in their day to da ...more
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
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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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