Beautiful Noise: The Music of John Cage

by Lisa Rogers (Author) Il Sung Na (Illustrator)

Reading Level: K − 1st Grade

Open this unique picture book and meet John Cage, the pioneering, inspiring composer who believed all sound--from the crash of a slamming door to the whirr of a blender to the whoosh of the wind--was music.

For John Cage, music was everywhere: in the hum of the refrigerator, the screech of a garbage truck, the patter of the rain. But other people disagreed. They felt that, surely, a pianist on stage must actually play their piano to create music...not just sit there. And in no way was it melodic to turn a musician's mic on and off as they do play their instruments--it was just chaos!

John Cage found sound in silence, and knew that all noises were unique. All you had to do was listen to hear it.

Told in second person and paired with exciting illustrations as innovative as Cage's music, here is a picture book--perfect for any budding musician--that celebrates the genius of a non-confirming musician who always stayed true to his artistic vision.

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School Library Journal

K-Gr 3-Beautiful end papers jump-start this introduction to composer John Cage. Wildly divergent sounds are illustrated with dots, scribbles, splashes, and stamps of color. Each page that follows is an invitation to be like Cage, a leading pioneer in 20th century avant-garde music and dance; readers are asked to think, feel, and listen as he did. Some examples of his creativity are given, e.g., his use of squiggles and dots instead of musical notes, or his 4.33-minute piano piece that was completely silent. He would turn mics on and off at concerts to affect the musical experience. He wrote music using appliances and lights. His deep belief that all sounds are beautiful comes through over and over. Cage wanted sounds conventionally considered noise to be heard as music. The illustrator was captivated by the idea of making sounds visual; the art throughout the book flows, grows, and startles just as Cage's music did. His mix of neon colors with muted tones invites readers to change how they hear music and to listen to all sounds with new appreciation. VERDICT A great introduction to a composer who was a disruptor and pioneer; this is a solid addition to school libraries and music departments.

Copyright 2023 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission. 


Tantalizing glimpses of a composer who challenged the very definition of music.
Lisa Rogers
LISA ROGERS writes children's books from the shores of a pond outside of Boston, Massachusetts (and sometimes from on the pond itself, where she kayaks almost every day in summer). She lives with her husband, daughter, and many pets.

CATHERINE PAPE is an artist and illustrator living and working in Leeds, United Kingdom.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Anne Schwartz Books
Publication date
October 10, 2023
BISAC categories
JUV000000 - Juvenile Fiction | General
Library of Congress categories
United States
Cage, John
Avant-garde (Music)

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