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Nothing: John Cage and 4'33" (Hardcover)

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Nothing: John Cage and 4'33
By Nicholas Day, Chris Raschka (Illustrator)
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Staff Reviews

The sounds of nothing...? I know I'm a believer that the sound of silence can be so full...of space, nuance, revelations. In this fantastic children's book we are introduced to composer John Cage and his unique exploration of sound and music...even silence and his famous composition 4'33", exploring just that! Can't we all, children and adults alike, revel in the sounds of silence; raindrops, cars passing, and the beat of our own heart!

— Tonya


What does nothing sound like? An offbeat history of John Cage’s 4’33”, a musical composition of blank bars, illustrated by Caldecott Medalist Chris Raschka.

One night in 1952, master pianist David Tudor took the stage in a barnlike concert hall called the Maverick. A packed audience waited with bated breath for him to start playing. Little did they know that the performance had already begun.   

A rain patters.
A tree rustles.
An audience stirs.

David was performing John Cage’s 4’33”, whose purpose is to amplify the ambient sounds of whatever venue it inhabits. That shocking first performance earned 4’33” plenty of haters; and yet the piece endures, “performed” by the smallest garage bands and the grandest symphonies alike, year after year. Its fans hear what John Cage hoped we would hear: “Nothing” is never silent, and you don’t need a creative genius, a concert hall, or even a piano to hear something worthwhile. All you have to do is stop and listen.

Nicholas Day’s text is reverent with a healthy drop of humor, warm and refined; two-time Caldecott Medalist Chris Raschka’s childlike pencil-on-watercolor artwork is uninhibited and electrifying, with all the visionary spirit of the work it chronicles. Guaranteed to spark generative thought and lively debate among readers of all ages, Nothing is not to be missed.

A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection

About the Author

Nicholas Day is the author of The Mona Lisa Vanishes, a middle-grade
book of narrative nonfiction about the theft of the Mona Lisa. For adults, he’s the author of Baby Meets World, a work about the science and history of infancy, which Mary Roach called “a perfect book.” He lives in Western Massachusetts with his family.

Chris Raschka is the Caldecott-Medal-winning and Hans Christian Andersen Award-nominated author and illustrator of dozens of books for young readers, including The Hello, Goodbye Window, A Ball for Daisy, and Yo! Yes? He is also a violinist. He lives in New York City.

Praise For…

★ "An exceptional exploration of absolutely ‘nothing’ that feels particularly radical in an ever-bustling and connected world."—Booklist, Starred Review

★ "Raschka’s stunning illustrations further these heady concepts: staff lines, disembodied notes, accidentals, and oddly placed clefs visually capture Cage’s spirit. . . The book deftly pivots in time between Cage’s childhood, the Woodstock performance, and his impact on music broadly."The Horn Book, Starred Review

★ "A beautifully written and illustrated story of a man who wanted people to explore nothingness, which is a necessity in today’s busy world. A great read-aloud and a must-purchase for all ­library collections."—School Library Journal, Starred Review

"Raschka’s broad watercolor strokes create bold shapes, pops of color, and disproportionate figures that add a playful undercurrent to the discussion of Cage’s avant-garde work."—Publisher’s Weekly
"Goofy yet profound"—Kirkus Reviews
"[A] remarkable picture book. . . Raschka’s lively and busy watercolor, pencil, and ink drawings capture all that is actually happening around the concert hall where it first seems like nothing at all is happening."The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

Product Details
ISBN: 9780823454099
ISBN-10: 0823454096
Publisher: Neal Porter Books
Publication Date: April 2nd, 2024
Pages: 40
Language: English