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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Visible Sounds (The)
by Yin Jianling
Age Range: 6-8
The Visible Sounds is an unusual book exploring a world of silence. It is based on the true story of Chinese dancer Lihua Tai. When MiLi was two years old she suffered an illness that resulted in her losing her hearing. MiLi feels anxious and upset as suddenly her world has become silent. Although MiLi cannot hear sounds, one day her life is changed forever when she discovers that she can perceive them in other ways. While travelling on a bus the old engine made it “shake as if there was a mischievous tiger hidden inside. MiLi couldn’t help touching it with her hand. As she did, she felt soft trembling, as if the small tiger was tickling her palms .” MiLi realises this is a sound.
From this moment on a new vibrant world is opened up to MiLi full of new sounds expressed exquisitely through Chinese author Yin Jianling’s lyrical text, eloquently translated by Filip Selucky. MiLi found she could touch a sound with her hands and see it with her eyes, feel it with her feet and even with her heart.
“Sound is a warm wind, gently brushing against cheeks” … “Sounds are waves when fish pass through water, like the lightest of kisses.” … “People’s lips constantly move and change shapes, they are like blooming flowers. Language is a river, flowing and flooding into MiLi’s body.” Soon MiLi is experiencing the power of music through vibration.
The design of the text as it swirls around the delicate pencil and watercolour illustrations by Chinese artist Yu Rong, balancing the grey with a vibrant red in the earlier pages building up the colour into a crescendo as MiLi discovers sound, are beautiful in their expressiveness and striking graphic style.
Throughout the book, three different sign languages have been used – Chinese, British, and American the images of which have been embedded in the illustrations. At the back, there is a page about Sign language and the different signs used. Finally, there is a page about Tai Lihua.
Lihua Tai was born in 1976 in the Hubei Province of China and lost her hearing at the age of two. One day at school when a teacher brought a drum into the classroom and began beating it, Tai discovered she could feel its rhythms passing through her whole body and she started to imagine herself dancing to the vibrations she felt from the music. Tai learned to dance, and her determination earned her a place on the world stage performing in the Carnegie Hall, New York, and La Scala in Milan.
The Visible Sounds is both inspiring and empowering and offers a positive message of hope which can speak to everyone.