Nothing: John Cage and 4’33”

Holiday House/Neal Porter. Apr. 2024. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780823454099.
Gr 1-5–Readers watch an amazing pianist named David Tudor walk into a barn—a very charming, Picasso-like barn in Raschka’s elegantly raucous illustrations—and explore what it means to do nothing for four minutes and 33 seconds with an inaugural performance of 4’33” by John Cage. It was extremely controversial in 1952 because he never even touched the piano, but the piece has since gathered supporters and recordings from around the world. “John Cage wanted to write a piece in which people would hear how much something there was in nothing” and how much there is to listen to in silence. Children will be encouraged to discover what music means to different people and to explore the silence. The watercolor illustrations bring this story to life in their whimsicality, but they do not trivialize the event or aftermath. The telling and art are in lockstep in conveying with poetry and simplicity all that Cage put into his compositions. Back matter includes a conversational, pithy biography of Cage, pictures of the sheet music for the song, a description of where to find and create recordings of the song, and a bibliography of resources. There’s even an app for creating 4’33” compositions of one’s own.
VERDICT A beautifully written and illustrated story of a man who wanted people to explore nothingness, which is a necessity in today’s busy world. A great read-aloud and a must-purchase for all library collections.Graphic Nonfiction

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