Like a Zen koan, this story draws readers’ attention to silence, that vanishingly rare attribute of modern family life.
Yoshio, wearing the classic bright cap and backpack of the Japanese pupil, sets jauntily off on his way to school through the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. Along the way he meets an elderly woman playing the koto, a traditional stringed instrument, who tells him that “the most beautiful sound” is in fact ma, or silence. Puzzling over this conundrum as he moves through his noise-filled day, Yoshio eventually becomes aware that silence is always there too, if only one learns how to notice it. Every detail of this book brings Japan vividly to life, from popular storefronts and cartoon characters to commuters wearing surgical masks and children removing their outside shoes at school. Japanese is rich in onomatopoeic sounds, and Goldsaito and Kuo convey this linguistic quirk to English readers both visually and verbally. The elegantly expressive text and illustrations together create an immersive sensory experience for readers.
An inviting tale that will stretch inquisitive and observant young minds—and may even lead children to a greater appreciation of that golden commodity, silence. (Picture book. 5-9)