Eddie Ayres and Ronak Taher (illustrator) Sonam and the Silence, Allen & Unwin, July 25 2018, 32 pp., RRP $24.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781760293666
“Music is forbidden, but that’s when we need it most.”
Sonam lives in Kabul. Now that she is seven, it is time for her to leave childish games behind and work with her brother in the markets. The markets are busy and full of noise. The cacophony of her world drives Sonam into the trees where she finds a walled garden of pomegranate and mulberry trees. Here she meets an old man who shares something forbidden in her country – music. The melody lifts her soul and allows her to soar free. She learns to hear music in silence and Sonam discovers joy, beauty and a peace she has never experienced before.
But when war rips away her sanctuary, can Sonam find her way back to the music?
Sonam and the Silence is a beautiful tale told with language that is evocative and lyrical. Taher’s powerful imagery conveys Sonam’s mental anguish, despair and hope. The illustrations are elegantly complex. Bold colours signify Sonam’s emotional journey and use of texture and shape creates feelings of elsewhere.
Miss Seven and I enjoyed Sonam and the Silence. First, we appreciated the textual beauty of the cover before delving into the story about a life, far away. She was fascinated to learn of the childhood cultural differences. Miss Seven was astonished by the six-year ban on music by the Taliban. The story and the author’s note at the end were excellent discussion starters. We found the story’s themes of trust, war, control, mental health, freedom and oppression are dealt with in an accessible and age-appropriate manner.
Sonam and the Silence is a sophisticated story that lies beneath a simple tale of a girl, her need for escapism, and the magical healing power of music.
Highly recommended for ages 6 to 9.
Teachers Notes available from Allen and Unwin
Reviewed by Fiona Miller-Stevens