Imagine living in a country that banned something that you dearly loved. In this impressive picture book, music is food for the soul as seven year old Sonam discovers in a stirring and uplifting story about a time in Afghanistan when silence was seen as preferable to the sound of song.
Seven year old Sonam lives in Kabul, a busy city with a bustling market. She sells chewing gum to the people in their cars and her ears are filled with the sounds of horns and the gunfire that comes from the mountains. One day, she is drawn to a walled garden by the sound of a man playing music on his rubab. Mesmerised by the beautiful sound and desperate to hear more, Sonam returns day after day until one day the old man hands over a rubab to her. But what to do now? Music is banned in Taliban controlled Afghanistan and is something never to be mentioned…
Sonam and the Silence is a celebration of the power of music. It explores the joy that music brings and the despair and huge void it leaves when it is not there. I for one couldn’t imagine a life without music and Sonam’s world becomes a lot richer with the sweet melodious sounds of the rubab. For Sonam, like many of us, music allows her to escape away from her daily fears.
The story is based in truth. In the author’s note, Eddie Ayres explains how in 1996 the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan and banned music, a ban which would last for six years. So many big messages are woven into this lyrical tale. It challenges the reader to imagine living in a country where something as simple as music is forbidden, to empathise with the challenges that those living in other countries face and to be thankful for the freedoms that they themselves have. There are also lighter and gentler messages about the curiosity of childhood and the beauty in experiencing something new that brings the utmost of joy.
The rich prose are accompanied by exquisite artwork by the accomplished Ronak Taher. Each carefully crafted page is a collage of wonderful colours and layers which evoke a sense of place and mood.
I love stories that help broaden children’s knowledge and understanding of the wider world and this one is a definite must read.
Recommended for 7+.