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  • Ratha Tep

Interview with Katrina Goldsaito, THE SOUND OF SILENCE

"Do you have a favorite sound?" little Yoshio asks. The musician answers, "The most beautiful sound is the sound of ma, of silence." But Yoshio lives in Tokyo, Japan: a giant, noisy, busy city. Will he be able to find the most beautiful sound of all?


Written by Katrina Goldsaito and illustrated by Julia Kuo

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (August 2, 2016)

What inspired The Sound of Silence? KG: "Growing up, I knew Japan only through my father’s stories. He grew up in Tokyo and he only knew the United States through his mother’s stories (she was born in Colorado, but moved back to Tokyo when she was 14, and died when my father was 13). So there is this multi-generational longing in my lineage.

The Sound of Silence is inspired by a story he used to tell about the famous composer Toru Takemitsu, who told my father that his favorite sound was 'silence and the sound of wind through bamboo.'"

What books do you love that explore this longing? "It was only in talking to you, in this format, Ratha, that I realized that the books that speak to my heart are books that explore a third space, a space that crosses cultural and national boundaries. Existing as I do, a mixed heritage woman at the intersection of cultures, the works that speak to my heart are those about immigration, being a refugee, colonization, searching for unfamiliar words, living between worlds.

These are the books that move me to tears, all of which I would say, are the new classics of the future.

The London Jungle Book by Bhajju Shyam

Watercress by Andrea Wang and Jason Chin

The Journey by Francesca Sanna

The Arrival by Shaun Tan

When We Were Alone by David Robertson and Julie Flett

The Most Beautiful Thing by Kao Kalia Yang and Khoa Le

The Big Bath House by Kyo Maclear and Gracey Zhang"

Are there any other picture books you love that explore mindfulness? "When I first came to writing children’s books, Jon J. Muth’s Zen Shorts was the book I fell in love with. His earlier The Three Questions is also deeply moving and soothing to me.

So much of what I discovered in sharing The Sound of Silence in so many schools, was that silence was something children could access internally, any time.

That in the noisiest schools or the most difficult circumstances, they had this peace and equilibrium inside them.

I love Outside, Inside by LeUyen Pham both because it is a sweet and moving record of this pandemic time, and because it is about the dynamic shifts of our internal and external states. It’s about noticing what is happening all around us while still responding with a sense of connection.

I would also call the hilarious and relatable Leave me Alone! by Vera Brosgol, a wonderful reminder to find space in ourselves and for ourselves. (I am also a knitter with curious, energetic children).

And though this book hasn’t been born yet, I am eagerly awaiting Minh Lê’s A Lotus for You, the Thích Nhất Hạnh biography, illustrated by the stunning Cátia Chien."

Your book is like armchair travel for the picture book set! It's such a beautiful, bustling portrait of Tokyo. You lived nomadically for 3 years with three generations of your family, what books did you take on your travels? "One of our favorite books when we were living in a van in New Zealand is Peter Gossage’s collection, Maui and Other Maori Legends. I never get tired of reading it. We also love Bacon and Jahnke’s The Home of The Winds.

We’ve loved reading the entire No. 1 Car Spotter series by Atinuke and Warwick Johnson Cadwell. It takes place in an unnamed African village. Lots of tears, especially in No. 1 Fights the Factory.

One of the only books we brought to Colombia, where we lived for much of the pandemic, was our beloved signed copy of Raúl the Third's ¡Vamos!"

What did you love reading to your kids at age 3? At age 5? And now that your oldest is 7, and youngest is 3.5? "Our kiddos were both fairly obsessed with rhyming books when they were 2-3, which we would always try to invent complicated rhythms for them, taking the example of Ludacris rapping Llama Llama Red Pajama. With our first kiddo it was Little Blue Truck Leads The Way by Alice Schertle and Jill McElmurry, and with our second, Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler on repeat.

We also regularly beatbox to Amy Wilson Sanger’s First Book of Sushi.

We are massive Owen Davey fans and are slowly collecting all of his animal books, Curious about Crocodiles is the current favorite.

We’ve been loving Hetxw’ms Gyetxw‘s The Grizzly Mother and the rest in the series.

Kaya Doi's Chirri and Chirra (every delicious weird book) are mainstays for our youngest, and our birdwatching oldest kiddo means that The Fog by Kyo Maclear and Kenard Pak is back in heavy rotation".

What would be on your list of 100 best picture books of all time? "Grandfather's Journey by Allen Say"


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