Who doesn't love a good recommendation?
Restaurants, movies, vacation destinations. If someone raves, my interest piques. And lately I've been wondering...
Is there a picture book gem that has escaped my attention?
When I walk into my local library with my girls, we head straight to the "New Picture Book" bins. There are always lots of goodies in there.
But... what if I'm missing something extraordinary? What if something amazing is shelved just out of view? To minimize my picture book FOMO, I've begun asking librarians:
What fabulous picture book (currently under the radar) deserves some attention?
I recently posed this question to elementary library media specialist Matthew C. Winner (@MatthewWinner) - co-founder of the incredible book exploration platform All The Wonders and host of the ATW Podcast. Here's Matthew!
It is a fantastic selection - proving that I AM, in fact, missing out on amazing picture books. (So I'm both relieved and defeated... but in good way!)
Here are my favorite things about Matthew's pick, The Sound of Silence:
Swoony-swoon cover art: The Sound of Silence earned a standing ovation from me right away, from the cover alone. So much is accomplished in this design (above). We are introduced to the charming protagonist, Yoshio, who is at the center of the quest at hand. The absence of color in the cityscape hints at the silence we are about to learn more about, and the use of white space around Yoshio delivers "silence" in yet another profound way. I also happen to be VERY partial to pops of yellow - Wes Anderson knows what I'm talking about - so I was completely won over by Yoshio's accessories, as well.
The soundtrack of Tokyo: On the first page of the book, Yoshio opens his door and instantly meets Tokyo. He steps outside and is inundated with sounds - honking horns, squealing brakes, puttering motors. It's a "symphony" to Yoshio, and he takes it all in eagerly. Yoshio parses everything he hears, honoring the role that each sound contributes to the composition. A new sound - the squeaky, vibrating sound of an instrument - draws him into a chance encounter with a musician. The koto player shares that "ma" (the sound of silence) is her favorite sound. With great curiosity, Yoshio then embarks on a journey to find "ma" in his noisy city and busy family life.
Universal sounds in an exciting new world: Yoshio's quest acquaints us with Tokyo and its rich, complex sounds. We travel through a bamboo grove at the edge of the playground (takeh-takeh-takeh). We watch as bullet trains pull into and out of the station (whoosh). In Yoshio's home, we hover above the family's dinner table (slurping and chewing and swallowing) and Yoshio's tub (Drip. Drip. Drip.). As the story moves along, Yoshio expands our understanding of Japanese culture while also subtly and beautifully pointing to daily routines that connect us all.
Lovely typography and artwork: The display type featured throughout The Sound of Silence was hand lettered. This results in a gentle and precise reinforcement of the narrative's sophisticated storytelling. It reads classic and timeless, yet also plays freshly across the book's lush backdrop of steely teals, vibrant greens, steady taupes and warm peaches. I found myself lingering on every word, which allowed me to really absorb Goldsaito's writing. The school house image below is a good example of the artistic brilliance presented page-after-page. The palette is so rich, and the world so thoroughly conceived. And the shadows and highlights and framing elements pull you in and focus your exploration. Julia Kuo's work is pristine.
Sound between sounds: The central idea of the book is that "ma" isn't just silence, but the silence BETWEEN sounds. In English, there is no direct equivalent for "ma." But isn't "ma" a fascinating concept? To understand, appreciate and label the sound between sounds, you have to make yourself STILL. You have to SLOW DOWN. You have to LISTEN and make yourself SMALL. Thank you, Katrina Goldsaito, for inviting your readers to seek "ma." Perhaps if we tuned into it "ma," we could better understand our surroundings and where we fit into our world.
My little ones may have been a bit young for this story. But I loved introducing them to this new and very real world. The Sound of Silence is a portrait of lyrical and illustrated excellence. My recommendation? Check it out!
THANK YOU Matthew for the fantastic selection! I'm so glad this book didn't pass me by.
And congratulations Katrina and Julia for The Sound of Silence's inclusion in Brain Pickings' Best Children's Books of 2016. SO DESERVED!