Wednesday, October 10, 2012

NZSL Week 2012: 5 picturebooks featuring deaf children

"I’ve always wanted to write a book relating my experiences growing up as a deaf child in Chicago. Contrary to what people might think, it wasn’t all about hearing aids and speech classes or frustrations."
– Marlee Matlin

This is an exceptionally late post because, well, it was kind of personal and I wasn't so sure I really wanted to post it.  My brother is deaf. Or 'profoundly deaf,' as the doctor told my parents umpteen years ago. It's not obvious when you look at him. That should go without saying, and yet it doesn't. I say it not to be daft on purpose, but because it's the first thing out of people's mouths when they realise. As if you can wear your deafness as blatantly as a roadside worker in a high-vis vest. The next thing people do is start shouting and over enunciating, at which point my brother gets incredibly frustrated and says, "I'm deaf. Not stupid," in a speaking voice as clear as mine. And that confuses people more, as if deaf people should be immediately identifiable by their speech pattern. Maybe sometimes people are, and maybe sometimes people aren't. His journey, his life experience of being deaf, has been an emotional roller coaster for all of us; both incredibly hard and joyous to see. Of all the things I've blogged about, both personally and work wise, this will be the hardest. I've only ever blogged about him once, and never again until now. I was never sure that I would be able to strike the right tone. I was never sure that I would find the right words that wouldn't see him turned him into a curiosity, instead. More than anything, I didn't want to inadvertently belittle or trivialise his life. It was always far too personal a post to write. It's not that I don't care, it's that I care too much. So what changed? Nothing huge. Just a chance conversation with my brother about what he would have like to have seen more of as a young child and he said, "Picture books with kids like me.  Where was I?  Where were kids like me?"  I'm happy to say that now, some thirty years later, there are more than a few, some of which I deliberately hunted out for this post.  This is for my brother :)  
My silent world / Nette Hilton & Vincent Agostino

A lyrical description of how a deaf child treasures her silent world and how it is changed by a cochlear implant, which she sees at first as 'the intruder.'

Tosca's comment: Reading this book was like a trip back in time to the early 80s and watching my brother learn to adapt to life with a hearing ai. Where before there had been total silence, overnight everything became suddenly LOUD and NOISY and INTRUSIVE. It took him quite a while to stop turning his hearing aid off. It's an interesting little picture book because it clearly lets you know that even without sound this little girl has a rich and full life. I really liked the artwork.  
Dad and me in the morning / Patricia Lakin ; illustrated by Robert G. Steele
Early one morning a young boy wakes to his special alarm clock. He puts on his hearing aids and clothes, then goes to wake his father. Together they brave the cold as they walk down the dirt road that leads to the beach.   Reviewer comments:
  • "A hearing-impaired child rises early and walks with his father to the beach to watch the sunrise. Both the watercolors and the language of the text constantly stress the rich sensations and experiences the boy takes from his soundless surroundings, as well as his ability to respond in a variety of ways -- signing, speaking, lip reading, or gesturing." (The Horn Book)
  • "Ages 5-8. In a special morning interlude, a young boy awakens his father, and they go down to the beach to watch the sunrise. The young boy is deaf, but he and his father have many ways of communicating. Dealt with simply, as part of the reality of their relationship, the boy's deafness is unobtrusively woven into this story about a father and child sharing a moment in time. In tune with the sensitive tone of the text, Steele's atmospheric watercolor illustrations capture the rising light of dawn as well as the love between the boy and his father. Reminiscent of Jane Yolen's Owl Moon (1987), this warm story can be considered for all picture book collections." (Booklist)

  • Stevie's first day / by Peggy Ballantyne ; illustrations by Andrew Burdan
    It is Stevie's first day at his new daycare centre and he is worried that the other children won't play with him because he is deaf.

    Moses goes to a concert / Isaac Millman
    Moses and his schoolmates, all deaf, attend a concert where the orchestra's percussionist is also deaf. Includes illustrations in sign language and a page showing the manual alphabet. Includes illustrations in American sign language and a page showing the manual alphabet.

    Kami and the yaks / Andrea Stenn Stryer ; illustrated by Bert Dodson
    Just before the start of a new trek, a Sherpa family discovers that their yaks are missing. Young Kami, anxious to help his brother and father maintain their livelihood, sets off by himself to find the wandering herd. A spunky deaf child who is unable to speak, Kami attempts to summon the yaks with his shrill whistle. Failing to rout them, he hustles up the steep mountainside to search the yaks' favorite grazing spots. On the way he encounters the rumblings of a fierce storm which quickly becomes more threatening. Surmounting his fear of being alone in the midst of treacherous lightning and hail, Kami uses his heightened sense of observation to finally locate the yaks. Reunited with their animals, the astonished family is once again able to transport their gear and guide the mountain climbers into the majestic terrain.

    Reviewer comments:
  • "For all the adversity Kami faces, he has the opportunity to do real, important work for his family that modern children often do not; they may read his story not just with interest, but with envy." (Publishers Weekly)
  • "This story opens the doors to new worlds and gives readers a character to admire." (School Library Journal)
  • "Many children will recognize Kami's frustration and then pride after he bravely solves a family problem, and Dodson's skillfully executed, atmospheric watercolors greatly extend the story's drama and tenderness." (Booklist)

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