The Sound of Silence by Katrina Goldsaito. Illustrated by Julia Kuo. Little, Brown, 2016
On the busy streets of Tokyo, Yoshio asks a koto player her favorite sound. She replies that the most beautiful sound to her is ma, the sound of silence. Yoshio tries to hear the sound of silence, but can’t find it. Noise seems to be everywhere: kids at school, traffic on the street, his family’s chopsticks and chewing during dinner. It’s not until Yoshi is engrossed in reading a book in an empty classroom that he realizes he’s hearing a moment of ma. “It had been there between the thumps of his boots when he ran; when the wind stopped for just a moment in the bamboo grove; at the end of his family’s meal, when everyone was happy and full; after the water finished draining from his bath; before the koto’s player music began—and hovering in the air, right after it ended. It was between and underneath every sound.” A picture book set in Tokyo is illustrated with detailed pen and digitally colored scenes that are both expansive and intimate, much like the story is full of both activity and quiet. An Afterword gives additional information about the Japanese concept of ma. Highly Commended, 2017 Charlotte Zolotow Award ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center
Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:
- What is your favorite sound and why?
- What words does the author use to describe the sounds in the city?
- Have you ever heard silence like Yoshio?
- Throughout the story, what is the connection between the setting and Yoshio?
- In what ways is Yoshio’s home similar and/or different from your home?