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Silence in the Mountains_

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Liz Rosenberg

Chris K. Soentpiet

Gr K-6/Ages 5+
32 pages/picture book
10½"X 9"
ISBN # 0-531-30084-6
$15.95 US

Orchard Books imprint of:
555 Broadway
New York, NY 10012
(800) 724 6527

Iskander loves his quiet. beautiful country. But when war breaks out, his family must move to America, and all Iskander wants is to go back home.

The sky is big in America just as it was in home, and his family brought with them many of the things that they loved. Yet try as he might to get used to his new surrounds, Iskander can't help feeling that something is missing.

Only Grandfather seems to understand just what that something is, and together they rediscover what makes a place feel like home.

Being an immigrant and having the good fortune to live in America, I can identify why Iskander and his family had to leave their beloved home country. Like most immigrants, we leave under dire circumstances. I encourage classrooms to use this book to study immigration and the issues that encompasses it. -Chris Soentpiet


Set during a modern civil war in an unnamed country resembling Lebanon, "The Silence in the Mountains" explores a child's personal confrontation with wartime exile, a topic all too relevant to late.

Unlike the Kosovar refugees whose plight American children watched unfold all spring, young Iskander and his family leave their verdant homeland with material security: they pack all their things and set off for America. This comfort mitigates the boy's difficulties, but a lesson of universal importance lies ahead. Home, Iskander learns, is more than a place for the silver teapot, more than his family's constant affection. It is also the comfort of a peaceful and familiar environment.

Iskander's family tends to him with care and persistence. However, Lebanese meals under a wide sky, the gift of a red toy truck and his grandmother's freshly baked cookies all fail to conjure a sense of belonging. Not until the boy's grandfather strolls with him into the woods can he really feel connected to his new home.

The family belongs to a generation of immigrants who beheld the Statue of Liberty from a commercial airliner, not from a steamship, as characters do in Liz Rosenberg's 1996 book, "Grandmother and the Runaway Shadow." She weaves empathetic storytelling with artfully placed details that set a comfortable rhythm: variations of the phrase "but something was missing" carry the reader through the tale. The forest leaves rustle like the foil that Iskander's truck came wrapped in.

Chris Soentpiet's portraits and landscapes are magnificent.  Most striking are the family members' sculptured features, set against fading backdrops of farm country. The style recalls his previous successes, but here the broad landscapes allow the human figures to breathe more freely. All images but the last are bordered only by the paper they are printed on, a convention that lets the vistas expand beyond the page.
-NEW YORK TIMES Book Review-Eric Roston (July 18, 1999)



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