Goldsaito, Katrina. The Sound of Silence. illus. by Julia Kuo. 40p. Little, Brown. Aug. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316203371; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780316271295.
K-Gr 4 –On a rainy, bustling morning in Tokyo, a young boy is surrounded by a symphony of sounds: boots squishing, raindrops pattering, cars rushing, and, to his delight, a koto player producing a range of high, low, and “twangy and twinkling” notes as she tunes her instrument. When Yoshio asks the musician what her favorite sound is, she answers, “Ma,” the silence between sounds. Intrigued by her comment, the boy spends his day in search of the elusive ma. Kuo’s art provides the backdrop for the child’s quest in scenes of contemporary Tokyo, from the high-speed Shinkansen trains that pass through its stations (“whoosh”) to the bamboo grove near the school playground that whispers “takeh-takeh-taheh.” Most of the images (in pen, with color added digitally) span spreads, offering wide-angle views of the city, but there are a few single-page pictures, proffering their own unique perspectives. The art is rich in detail and features a variety of concentrated colors that give way to muted grays and browns when suddenly, while reading, Yoshi experiences ma, something that feels peaceful, “still inside him.” In an author’s note, Goldsaito acknowledges the influence of the Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu, who believed that “without silence, sound would be meaningless.” VERDICT This book will be especially welcome in settings that teach yoga or mindfulness, but its message and striking art will be appreciated anywhere the din of daily life can overwhelm. School Library Journal
This review was published in the School Library Journal July 2016 issue.