Silent Music: A Story of Baghdad

Presented by Kelsey Youngworth EDEL 411 Section D

Rumford, J. (2008). Silent Music. New York: Roaring Brook Press.


Silent Music by James Rumford by Kyoungworth

Information About the Book

Author: James Rumford
Illustrator: James Rumford
Genre: Fiction
Topic/Theme: Finding beauty and peace in the midst of war.
  • 2009 Notable Books for a Global Society
  • 2009 NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People
  • 2009 Charlotte Zolotow Honor Book

About the Author and Illustrator

James Rumford

Rumford, J. (2013) About Me. Retrieved April 8, 2013, from

James Rumford has been writing, drawing, and creating books since he was a young boy. His books all revolve around language. James Rumford has a strong passion for different languages and loves to incorporate them into his books and stories. He has studied more than a dozen languages and also has a fascination with calligraphy. His books are all built around one main idea, "The world is as big as you want to make it"(Rumford, 2013). For more information about James Rumford and how he got started visit the link below.

James Rumford is both the illustrator and author of the book, Silent Music. The illustrations in the book are taken from and inspired by photos taken in Iraq. "The illustrations were done in pencil and charcoal then enhanced on the computer"(Rumford, 2008).

Criteria for High Quality Multicultural Literature

1. This book is rich in cultural details. This book provides rich cultural details throughout the story, through both text and illustrations. The cultural setting of the book is consistent with what would have been going on during that time period, making it more realistic. Ali's story takes place around 2003 in Baghdad, during a time of war and turmoil. Ali describes how calligraphy is a major part of his life and his culture. Calligraphy allows him to escape from the real world and find peace and beauty in his writing and life. He also describes at one point a historical figure, Yakut who was the most famous calligrapher in the world. The story he told of Yakut, fleeing to a high tower to escape the horror of war by writing, allowed Ali to apply Yakut's situation to his own. The story of Yakut is factual in detail and describes an accurate historical setting.
2. This book consistently demonstrates unique language and style. The main way this book exhibits high quality criteria for multicultural literature is through its unique style and language. The book uses both English and Arabic as well as calligraphy. It is rich in culture and we see that through the boy, Ali. He demonstrates how writing and calligraphy play a major role in his life. This demonstrates how each persons language and way of communicating is unique and crucial in order to understand the world. The author uses calligraphy and helps the reader understand how writing is such a beautiful process.
3. The themes in Silent Music, provide an in-depth treatment of cultural issues and consistently align with the values, beliefs, customs, and traditions of the specific cultural group. This book demonstrates the importance of art and beauty in the world. More specifically it displays the cultural issues that face the Iraqi's and how they cope. The book shows the importance of calligraphy and how it is a major part of this group's culture. It also displays the fear and emotions children may be feeling because they live in a war zone. This shows how this cultural group is accustomed to war and times of unrest. They then turn to other methods or ways to find beauty and peace, and in Ali's case this means using calligraphy. It also accurately depicts the activities and lifestyle of this cultural group. They love to play soccer and listen to loud music, as well as practicing the ancient art of calligraphy.

Silent Music Lesson Idea

Grade Level 3

CCSS 3.RL.7: Explain how specific aspects of a text's illustrations contribute to what is conveyed by the words in a story.

The students will describe how the illustrations and use of calligraphy contribute to Ali's mood and outlook on life, and identify different ways to deal with stress.

Lesson Procedure
  • Lesson begins with the teacher asking the students to write down how they deal with stress or who helps them deal with stressful situations. Then the teacher should ask the students if there are any similarities in the ways they handle stress. For example a student may say they talk to themselves, read a book, or listen to music. They are all peaceful ways to relax and let go of nerves or anxieties.
  • The teacher should then tell the students that they are going to be reading a book called Silent Music. The teacher should tell the students that as she reads the book they should pay special attention to how the boy reacts to stressful situations in his life. The teacher should also tell them to pay attention to the illustrations in the book and also how the boy writes.
  • The teacher should read the story aloud, and point out the use of calligraphy and its importance in Ali's life. Ask students questions as you read, for example ask the students, "what is Ali comparing calligraphy or writing to?" He compares it to music and how it flows from page to page and is beautiful. Ali also compares writing to soccer and him running out on the field. What does Ali do during war times? How does he find peace? What is Ali's mood like at the beginning of the book? What is Ali's mood at the end of the story? How does calligraphy help Ali?
  • After the story has been read have the students write down two things Ali did to relieve stress. Then have them write down what they would do if they were in Ali's shoes. Have the students discuss their thoughts and ideas in small table groups, then have them discuss what they came up with as one big group.
How you will connect this the lives of your students: I will connect it to the students lives by having them think of ways that they find peace in their lives. I will also make it relevant to their lives by having them put themselves in Ali's shoes and think of other ways they could let go of stress. I could also show them how the book offers a way for them to understand what is going on in the world.

How will you model or explain what you want them to learn: I will have them write down ways that they get rid of stress in their lives, but first share a few ways that I get rid of stress. It could be anything from drawing, playing sports, reading, or listening to music. I will tell them before I read the book that the boy, Ali, uses calligraphy as a way to escape the world he is in, and how we too sometimes find ways to escape tricky situations.

How will you have them practice this skill: I will have them brainstorm ways to deal with stress and compare them to how Ali dealt with stress and dangerous times within the story.