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.
seems to understand just what that something is, and together they rediscover
what makes a place feel like home.
MY THOUGHTS OF SILENCE IN THE MOUNTAINS":
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.
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.
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.
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.
YORK TIMES Book Review-Eric Roston (July 18, 1999)